CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 950286 LTO
Ms. Kathy Durante
M.H. Rhodes, Inc.
99 Thompson Road
Avon, Connecticut 06001
RE: Photocontrol unit; GRI 3(b); 8533; 8541; EN 85.36; EN 85.41
Dear Ms. Durante:
This is in response to your letter of August 21, 1991, to
Customs in New York, requesting the classification of a
photocontrol unit under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the
United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred to this office
for a response.
The article in question is the photocontrol unit. These
units, which will be imported from Mexico, are used by utility
companies to control street lights. The units are basically
photoelectric switches. They fit into standard street lights,
and are light-activated, rather than time-activated.
The units consist of the following active components which
are encased in a plastic housing: a thermal relay switch, a
photocell and a Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV). The thermal relay
switch turns the lights on and off, and is similar to a "micro-
switch." The photocell is a photosensitive resistor. The MOV is
a lightning arrestor that protects against voltage surge.
What is the proper classification for the photocontrol unit
under the HTSUS?
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LAW AND ANALYSIS:
The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) to the HTSUS
govern the classification of goods in the tariff schedule. GRI 1
states in pertinent part that "for legal purposes, classification
shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and
any relative section or chapter notes . . . ."
The article in question consists of three active components:
(1) a thermal relay switch; (2) a photocell; and (3) an MOV. All
of these components are classifiable under separate headings.
The thermal relay switch, which is similar to a microswitch, is
classifiable under Heading 8536, HTSUS, which provides for
"[e]lectrical 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." EN 85.36(I), pg. 1389, states that this
heading covers electrical apparatus for a voltage not exceeding
1,000 volts generally used for dwellings or industrial equipment.
"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." EN 85.36(I), pg. 1389.
This heading also includes change-over switches and relays. The
switches of this heading include small switches for use in radio
apparatus, electrical instruments, etc., switches of a kind used
in domestic electrical wiring, and switches for industrial
application, such as, limit switches, cam switches, proximity
switches and microswitches. EN 85.36(I), pg. 1389.
The photocell is classifiable under Heading 8541, HTSUS,
which provides for "photosensitive semiconductor devices." EN
85.41, pg. 1398, states that this heading covers devices "in
which the action of visible rays, infra-red rays or ultra-violet
rays causes variations in resistivity or generates an
electromotive force, by the internal photoelectric effect."
The main types of photosensitive semiconductor devices are
photoconductive cells and photovoltaic cells, which include solar
cells, photodiodes, photocouples and photorelays.
The MOV is classifiable under Heading 8533, HTSUS, which
provides for "[e]lectrical resistors (including rheostats and
potentiometers), other than heating resistors."
GRI 3(b) states that "[w]hen, by application of rule 2(b) or
for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under
two or more headings, classification shall be effected as
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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 Explanatory Notes to GRI 3(b), pg. 4, state that "[t]he
factor which determines 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 [emphasis added]."
The active components of the photocontrol unit, which are
encased in a plastic housing, are the thermal relay switch,
photocell and MOV. The thermal relay switch turns the lights on
and off, and is similar to a microswitch. The photocell is a
photosensitive resistor. The MOV protects the equipment against
The photocontrol unit is used to control lighting. It fits
into a standard street light and is basically a photoelectric
switch (on/off switch), although the unit is light-activated,
rather than time-activated. Thus, it is our opinion that the
component which gives the unit its essential character--based on
the role of this component in relation to the use of the article
in question--is the thermal relay switch. Therefore, the unit is
classifiable under subheading 8536.50.00, HTSUS.
The photocontrol unit is classifiable under subheading
8536.50.00, HTSUS, which provides for "[e]lectrical 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 . . .
[o]ther switches." The corresponding rate of duty for articles
classifiable under this subheading is 5.3% ad valorem.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division