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HQ 964546

December 4, 2000

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 964546 mbg


TARIFF NO.: 8531.80.9050

Mr. Samuel K. Liao
General Tech Corporation
2415 Midway Road, Suite 125
Carrollton, TX 75006

RE: Revocation of HQ 950324; Lighted safety belt from Taiwan

Dear Mr. Liao:

On December 10, 1991, Customs issued Headquarters Ruling Letter (“HQ”) 950324 to your company regarding the tariff classification of a lighted safety belt from Taiwan under heading 8513 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (“HTSUSA”). Upon review of similar merchandise which was recently considered by Customs for classification, Customs has determined that the subject merchandise is substantially similar and therefore, classification in heading 8513, HTSUSA, was incorrect. The correct classification for the product should be under heading 8531, HTSUSA, which provides for electric sound or visual signaling apparatus. HQ 950324 is hereby revoked for the reasons set forth below.


The merchandise submitted for HQ 950324 was described as “Hot Lights Body Signals” according to the literature originally forwarded with your request. The sample article consists of a woven nylon belt with a plastic snap buckle and a fitting to adjust the size. Attached to the belt by a hook-and-loop fastener is a lighting unit which consists of a plastic battery/ switch case attached to a nylon strip containing five red lights. The inquiry submitted also stated that the product may be imported with a removable pouch made of woven nylon material. The pouch is designed to hold the lighted unit and/or the belt when not in use. The literature describes the article for wear around the waist while walking, jogging, bicycling, etc. for purposes of visibility. The literatures also describes the product’s suitability for use on pets. The belt, lighting unit and pouch are manufactured in Taiwan.


What is the proper tariff classification of the subject merchandise under the HTSUSA?


Classification under the HTSUSA is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (“GRIs”). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (“ENs”) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, facilitate classification under the HTSUSA by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRIs.

Upon review, it is determined that no single heading within the HTSUS specifically describes goods of this type. Because the merchandise cannot be classified pursuant to GRI 1, we apply the remaining GRIs in their appropriate order. GRI 2(b) provides that any reference in a heading to a material or substance shall be taken to include a reference to mixtures or combinations of that material or substance with other materials or substances. However, GRI 2(b) adds that the classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3. Accordingly, GRI 3 is utilized when, by application of GRI 2(b), a good consists of materials or components which are prima facie classifiable under two or more headings.

It is Customs’ opinion that these articles, in their entirety, are not classifiable based on one component. The lighted safety belt uses electricity to radiate and reflect light. Because the articles consist of a combination of materials or components which are prima facie classifiable under two or more headings, we are directed by the GRIs to classify the articles pursuant to GRI 3 which states:

(a). The heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. However, when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods or to part only of the items in a set put up for retail sale, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods.

As the electronic lighting devices as well as the underlying textile components could be classified in different headings, we are required to continue to the next principle, i.e., GRI 3(b):

(b). Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

The ENs to GRI 3(b) state:

(VII). In all these cases the goods are to be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

(VIII). The factor which determines the essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

The subject safety belt contains a light source which increases the retail value of the safety article and further supports consideration of the light source. The light uses reflector strips that radiates a light source throughout that product and allows the lighted wearer to be visible from a long distance.

Although a consumer would perhaps purchase this particular safety product specifically for the added feature of the lighting unit, Customs must also give consideration to the fact that this safety belt appears to the naked eye to be virtually identical to other safety belts that do not have a lighting unit. The safety belt remains functional as an identifier and will provide a greater degree of visibility during the daytime even when the lighting unit is not in operation. It is only when you activate the lights that the item has a different quality and therefore, an essential character determination cannot readily be made pursuant to GRI 3(b).

GRI 3(c) provides:

When goods cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration.

Of those headings under consideration, the HTSUSA headings which refer to the classification of the lighted unit would occur last in the tariff. There are two possible headings which must be considered for such classification under the HTSUSA: heading 8513, provides for portable electric lamps designed to function by their own source of energy, and heading 8531, provides for electric sound or visual signaling apparatus.

Similar composite good and GRI 3 analysis was used in HQ 950324 which states in relevant part:

We find no tariff heading which provides for this article eo nomine. Therefore, Customs considers the Hot Lights Body Signal (Body Signal) to be a composite good consisting of the belt, the lighting unit and the pouch (when imported with the other articles). Composite articles are classified according to GRI 3, which states, in pertinent part that composite articles of different components are classified according to that component which provides the goods with their essential character.

In this case, we find that the essential character will be determined by the character of either the lighting unit or the belt. Customs has held that carrying pouches such as this, sold with a primary article, are classified with that primary article. The carrying pouch imported with the belt and lighting unit will therefore be classified with those components.

We have considered two headings for classification of this article: heading 6307, HTSUSA, which provides for other made up textile articles, and includes belts not having the character of accessories to wearing apparel, and heading 8513, HTSUSA, which provides for portable electric lamps designed to function by their own source of energy.

Upon review by the Office of Regulations & Rulings, Customs has determined that HQ 950324 should have also considered heading 8531, HTSUS which provides for electronic and sound signaling apparatus.

The ENs for Heading 8531, HTSUS, state in pertinent part:

With the exception of signaling apparatus used on cycles or motor vehicles and that for traffic control on roads, railways, etc., this heading covers all electrical apparatus used for signaling purposes, . . . using visual indication (lamps, flaps, illuminated numbers, etc.), and whether operate by hand or automatically.

(emphasis added.)

The class of items classified within heading 8513 is that typical of lamps which emit a constant stream of light such as flashlights and certain types of lanterns. See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 951855, dated July 24, 1993; HQ 084852, dated March 28, 1990; HQ 953262, dated July 26, 1993; HQ 088993, dated July 29, 1991; and HQ 084852, dated March 28, 1990,

In applying the rule of ejusdem generis to determine whether an item is embraced within a particular class, the courts have looked to the articles enumerated within that class to ascertain the characteristics they have in common. Kotake Co., Ltd. v. United States, 58 Cust. Ct. 196, C.D. 2934 (1967). As the class of goods classified in heading 8531, HTSUS, is designed to be broad and encompass all electronic signaling apparatus not more specifically provided for elsewhere within the tariff schedule, Customs determines that by virtue of ejusdem generis the subject flashing safety belt is properly classified in heading 8531, HTSUS. This determination is consistent with NY E85273, dated August 25, 1999.


HQ 950324 is hereby revoked.

The subject safety belt, described as “Hot Lights Body Signals,” is properly classified under subheading 8531.80.9050, HTSUSA, which provides for “Electric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms), other than those of heading 8512 or 8530; parts thereof: Other apparatus: Other: Other: Other.” The subject merchandise is dutiable at the general column one rate of 1.3 percent ad valorem.

Because GRI 3(c) has been used to classify this merchandise, it is limited to the specific facts and articles which are the subject of this decision. A slight change in the facts or articles could result in an essential character determination under GRI 3(b). Accordingly, importers of similar merchandise should review all of the rulings discussed in this decision and if doubt exists as to classification, request a ruling from the Customs Service.


John Durant, Director

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