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HQ 963719

September 6, 2001

CLA2 RR:CR:GC 963719 AML


TARIFF NO.: 8536.90.80

Mr. Robert F. Seeley
Barnes Richardson & Colburn
303 East Wacker Drive
Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601

RE: Cold Shrink™ electrical cable splice insulator kits

Dear Mr. Seeley:

This is in reference to your letters dated October 28, 1999, and February 11, 2000, on behalf of the 3M Company, requesting the classification of electrical cable splice insulator kits under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). In New York Ruling Letter (NY) F80173, dated December 13, 1999, the National Commodity Specialist Division classified the Cold Shrink™ Termination Insulator Kits under subheading 8546.90.00, HTSUS. As you are aware, the question of classification of the remaining articles (Cold Shrink™ Splice Insulator Kit and the Molded Rubber Splice Insulator Kit) was referred to this office. Samples were provided for our examination. We regret the delay in responding.


Two related but distinct articles are presented for classification. We paraphrase your description of them as follows:

Each product is sold with an insulator body and ancillary or disposable materials and parts necessary for installation. For example, the Cold Shrink™ QS-III Splicing Kit contains the following materials and parts: one model 5418 silicone rubber splice body, 2 jacketing tubes, 2 “red compound” tubes, seven Scotch™ 2230 mastic sealing strips, two Scotch™ 2228, one “neutral duct,” one 3M™ cable cleaning pad, one cable preparation template, and an instruction booklet.

A cable splice is the junction of two or more cables held together with a suitable connector. Cold Shrink™ Splice Insulator Kits are used to insulate the two cables and the connector at that point of connection in order to contain the voltage within the cable system. They consist of an insulating tubular or sleeve-like silicone rubber body and a one piece molded design

(which accounts for at least three-quarters of the total cost of the kits in which they are packaged and sold). Some models of the Cold Shrink™ splice system are offered with the aluminum or copper connector included in the kit (these connectors may be included in the kits or may be purchased separately by the installer).

Each Cold Shrink™ termination, regardless of model, forms an insulating seal that can withstand environmental forces such as water, sun, air, airborne pollution, and other physical objects of all kinds, without losing its protective, cable-insulating properties. Three classes of terminations are available; each designed for a different application depending upon the type of cable being used and the environment in which the cable is used.

The molded rubber splicing kits serve the same purpose as the Cold Shrink™ splices but are made of a more rigid material. They consist of a unitary tube or sleeve shaped body made of EPDM [ethylene-propylene-non-conjugated diene rubber, see subheading 4002.70, HTSUS]. Inside the outer layer of this body is a hollow chamber that provides for additional insulation of the cable splice. The splice is encased in an inner chamber and is held together with a copper or aluminum connector that is crimped around the splice.


Whether the various types of electrical cable insulator kits are classifiable under subheading 8536.90.80, HTSUS, as apparatus for making connections to or in electrical circuits; or under subheading 8546.90.00, HTSUS, as electrical insulators of any material, other?


The classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1, HTSUS, provides, in part, that “for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes[.]”

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8536 Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, or for making connections to or in electrical circuits (for example, switches, relays, fuses, surge suppressors, plugs, sockets, lamp-holders, junction boxes), for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V:
8536.90 Other apparatus:
8536.90.80 Other.
8546 Electrical insulators of any material: 8546.90.00 Other.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 8980. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The articles, upon importation, are prima facie classifiable in multiple headings; the individual articles comprising the kits are separately classifiable. Therefore, classification must be made pursuant to GRIs 2(b) and 3. GRI 2(b) provides in pertinent part that “the classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3.” GRI 3(b) provides, in pertinent part that “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 Cold Shrink™ splicing kits comprise goods put up in sets for retail sale. See GRI 3(b) EN (IX). See also, the Informed Compliance Publication (ICP) entitled “What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About: Classification of Sets under the HTS” (September, 1999) and EN X to GRI 3(b):

For the purposes of this Rule, the term “goods put up in sets for retail sale” shall be taken to mean goods which:

(a) consist of at least two different articles which are, prima facie classifiable in different headings;

(b) consist of products or articles put up together to meet a particular need or carry out a specific activity; and

(c) are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking (e.g., in boxes or cases or on boards).

We do not consider classification based on the constituent materials, EPDM or hardened rubber, because “mechanical or electrical appliances or parts thereof of Section XVI” are excluded from classification by the ENs to Chapters 39 and 40, respectively.

As regards the essential character of the goods, we note several decisions by the Court of International Trade (CIT) which addressed “essential character” for purposes of GRI 3(b). Better Home Plastics Corp. v. United States, 916 F. Supp. 1265 (CIT 1996), affirmed, 119 F. 3rd 969 (Fed. Cir. 1997), involved the classification of shower curtain sets, consisting of an outer textile curtain, inner plastic magnetic liner, and plastic hooks. The Court examined the role of the constituent materials in relation
to the use of the goods and found that, although the relative value of the textile curtain was greater than that of the plastic liner, and that although the textile curtain also served protective, privacy and decorative functions, because of the fact that the plastic liner served the indispensable function of keeping water inside the shower, the plastic liner imparted the essential character upon the set. See also Mita Copystar America, Inc. v. United States, 966 F. Supp. 1245 (CIT 1997), motion for rehearing and reconsideration denied, 994 F. Supp. 393 (CIT 1998), and Vista International Packaging Co. v. United States, 19 CIT 868, 890 F. Supp. 1095 (1995), in which the Court also looked to the role of the constituent material in relation to the use of the goods to determine essential character.

The ENs to Chapter 85 provide, in pertinent part, that:

This Chapter covers:
(6) Certain electrical goods not generally used independently, but designed to play a particular role as components, in electrical equipment, e.g., capacitors (heading 85.32), switches, fuses, junction boxes, etc. (heading 85.35 or 85.36), lamps (heading 85.39), thermionic, etc., valves and tubes (heading 85.40), diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices (heading 85.41), electrical carbons (heading 85.45).

(7) Certain articles and materials which are used in electrical apparatus and equipment because of their conducting or insulating properties, such as insulated electric wire and assemblies thereof (heading 85.44), insulators (heading 85.46), insulating fittings and metal conduit tubing with an interior insulating lining (heading 85.47).

The ENs to heading 8536 provide, in pertinent part, that:

These apparatus consist essentially of devices for making or breaking one or more circuits in which they are connected, or for switching from one circuit to another; they may be known as single pole, double pole, triple pole, etc., according to the number of switch circuits incorporated. This group also includes change-over switches and relays. (III) APPARATUS FOR MAKING CONNECTIONS TO OR IN ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS

This apparatus is used to connect together the various parts of an electrical circuit. It includes:

(A) Plugs, sockets and other contacts for connecting a movable lead or apparatus to an installation which is usually fixed. This category includes:

(1) Plugs and sockets (including those for connecting two movable
leads). A plug may have one or more pins or side contacts which match corresponding holes or contacts in the socket. The rim or one of the pins may be used for earthing purposes.

(2) Sliding contacts such as brushes for motors and current-collectors for electric traction vehicles, lifting appliances, etc. (overhead or third rail collectors, etc.) other than such articles of “ carbon ” or graphite (heading 85.45). They may consist of block metal, wire cloth or laminated strip, and remain in this heading even when coated with an external lubricating layer of graphite.

(3) Lamp or valve sockets and lamp-holders. Certain lamp-holders are in the form of candles for mounting in candelabra or are designed to form a bracket against a wall; these remain classified here provided their main function is to act as lamp-holders.

Plugs and sockets, etc., assembled with a length of wire are excluded (heading 85.44).

(B) Other connectors, terminals, terminal strips, etc. These include small squares of insulating material fitted with electrical connectors (dominoes), terminals which are metal parts intended for the reception of conductors, and small metal parts designed to be fitted on the end of electrical wiring to facilitate electrical connection (spade terminals, crocodile clips, etc.).

Terminal strips consist of strips of insulating material fitted with a number of metal terminals or connectors to which electrical wiring can be fixed. The heading also covers tag strips or panels; these consist of a number of metal tags set in insulating material so that electrical wires can be soldered to them. Tag strips are used in radio or other electrical apparatus.

(C) Junction boxes. These consist of boxes fitted internally with terminals or other devices for connecting together electrical wires. Junction boxes not fitted with means of electrical connection, but used solely as a protective cover or to hold an insulating compound over a joint made independently, are not covered here, but are classified according to their constituent material.

The splice kits can be described as articles that connect electrical cables (thereby completing an electrical circuit). Although the ENs do not particularly describe the kits, we believe that heading 8536 and its ENs contemplate the set, especially in light of its function. Grolier’s Encyclopedia (Grolier Electronic Publishing, 1994)(hereinafter “Grolier’s”), under the heading “circuit, electric” elaborates:

An electric circuit comprises interconnected electrical components forming a complete path for an electric current, which is a flow of electric charge. The ELECTRICITY often is used to produce a different form of energy such as light, heat, or sound.


Most electric circuits have four main parts: (1) a source of electric energy such as a chemical BATTERY, GENERATOR, or SOLAR CELL; (2) a load, or output device, such as a lamp, motor, or loudspeaker; (3) conductors, such as copper or aluminum wire, to transport the electrical energy from the source to the load; and (4) a control device, such as a RELAY, SWITCH, or thermostat, to control the flow of energy to the load.

The articles connect separate wires, “making” the circuit (see heading 8536 and related ENs) and relaying the flow of electrical current. The copper or aluminum connectors that are necessary for the installation and use of the articles (and are included in some kits and purchased separately for use with others) function as connective sheaths around the conductive material of the cables. According to the installation instructions submitted with the samples, the conductive cables each occupy one half of the metal sheath, “plus [specified] allowances for increase in connector length due to crimping.” We find that the base metal connectors join and house the connected cables and facilitate the transmission of electricity between those cables. These base metal connectors are in turn insulated by the remaining components of the kits. Therefore, we believe that the splice kits are classifiable under heading 8536, HTSUS.

The ENs to heading 8546 provide, in pertinent part, that:

Insulators of this heading are used for the fixing, supporting or guiding of electric current conductors while at the same time insulating them electrically from each other, from earth, etc. The heading excludes insulating fittings (other than insulators) for electrical machinery, appliances or equipment; these fittings fall in heading 85.47 if they consist wholly of insulating material (apart from any minor components of metal incorporated during moulding solely for purposes of assembly).

Usually there is a relation between the size of the insulator and the voltage (large for high voltages, smaller for low voltages). Similarly, the shape of the various types of insulators is influenced by electric, thermic and mechanical considerations. The external surface is very smooth in order to prevent the formation of deposits of non-insulating materials, such as water, salts, dusts, oxides and smoke. Insulators are often given bell, accordion, petticoat, grooved, cylinder or other shapes. Certain types are constructed in such a way that when in position they may contain oil to prevent contamination of the surface by conducting materials.

Insulators may be made of any insulating material, usually very hard and non-porous, e.g., ceramic material (porcelain, steatite), glass, fused basalt, hardened rubber, plastics or compounded insulating materials. They may contain fixing devices (e.g., metal brackets, screws, bolts, clips, laces, slings, pins, cross pieces, caps, rods, suspension or carrying clamps). Insulators
equipped with metal horns or guard shields or other devices to form lightning arresters are excluded (heading 85.35).

We find that the essential character of both the Cold Shrink™ Splicing Kit and the Molded Rubber Splice Insulator Kit is imparted by the connective function. The kits are designed and constructed primarily to join (by means of the metal connectors that are crimped around the ends of the cables to complete an electrical circuit) separate lengths of electrical cable and secondarily to insulate the splices from interference, the elements, and contaminants. The components of the kit (set), when installed, accomplish this indispensable function (See Better Home Plastics, supra). Therefore, the articles are classifiable in heading 8536, HTSUS, as other apparatus for making connections to or in electrical circuits.

This holding comports with Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 958140, dated August 31, 1995. In that ruling, we found that wire nuts (“cone shaped article[s] of plastic with metal insert[s] to join electrical wires and provide insulation”) were classified under subheading 8546.90.00, HTSUS. We reasoned that “the electrical connection is made when the wires are first twisted together” and that the “wire nuts serve to maintain or tighten a connection that has already been made.” By contrast, the Cold Shrink™ and Molded Rubber Splice Insulator kits connect, house and protect the conductive and neutral cables. That is, they are used for the fixing, supporting or guiding of electric current conductors while at the same time insulating them electrically from each other, from earth, etc. See the EN to headings 8536 and 8546, supra.


The Cold Shrink™ electrical cable splice insulator kits are classifiable under subheading 8536.90.80, HTSUS, as apparatus for making connections to or in electrical circuits, other.


John Durant, Director

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