CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 963218 JAS

David Sanders, Esq.
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P
1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009-5728

RE: Junction Box, Power Distribution Box, Power Distribution Junction Box

Dear Mr. Sanders:

In a letter to Customs National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, dated September 10, 1999, on behalf of Alcoa Fujikura, Ltd., you inquire as to the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of junction boxes and power distribution boxes, all products of Mexico. Your request has been forwarded to this office for reply.

You have indicated that the merchandise represented by three of the samples is the subject of pending transactions at the ports of El Paso and Laredo, TX, but that importations are ongoing. With regard to the fourth sample, this ruling request concerns a prospective transaction. Section 177.5, Customs Regulations, requires that you notify the ports of El Paso and Laredo that this ruling request is pending at Headquarters. We will provide Customs officials at this port with a copy of the ruling we issue in the matter for their information and guidance.

You summarized all relevant facts and legal arguments at a meeting in our office on May 19, 2000, which you summarized in a memorandum of the same date. During the meeting, a company engineer provided technical explanation by telephone. Samples, previously submitted to our New York office with your September 10 letter, were returned to you.

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The articles in question are two junction boxes, models XF2T-14A067-AG and F81B-14A067-GD, a power distribution box, model KO 68-4743 L, and a power distribution junction box (the “boxes”). Samples of the first three articles were submitted. A diagram and photograph of the fourth article were submitted as it is in the final design and development stage and only a prototype has been produced to date. During the meeting you referred to the boxes as “pass through” boxes while the engineer described them as EDB’s or electrical distribution boxes.

The first box is a rectangular plastic article with attached stand. It measures 6 ½ inches x 4 ¼ inches x 3 inches and contains six relays and twenty-one fuses connected to a base. It also contains numerous metallic articles called frets. These are connectors that conduct or transmit electrical signals from the battery to wiring harnesses in a motor vehicle whose purpose is to transmit electric current to operate windshield wipers, power windows, air conditioner, lighting systems, and other working parts and components in the vehicle. The second box is also plastic but without a stand. It measures 11 inches x 5 inches x 2 inches and contains three relays, twenty-six fuses and numerous frets. You state that the relays in both boxes provide an electrical current switching function in response to signals received from switches elsewhere in the vehicle and that the fuses provide over-current protection. You maintain the primary function of both boxes is to connect electrical circuits within the vehicle.

The power distribution box is a plastic box measuring 18 inches x 12 inches x 4 ½ inches with a removable metal cover. In addition to various receptacles and terminals this box contains the electrical wiring for numerous fuses and relays, which will be added after importation. This box also contains two bus bars. These are copper conductors that interconnect and distribute electricity from the car’s battery, through the fuses which protect the circuits from excessive current, to output devices that utilize the power.

Finally, the power distribution junction box is designed as a combination of the junction box and power distribution box described above. It will incorporate a bus bar connected to numerous fuses which, in turn, will be connected to a printed circuit board (PCB), which will incorporate relays, resistors and terminals, among other components. You state that components in the PCB will enable the box to function both as a control device and as an interconnective device between circuits and systems within a vehicle.

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You maintain that boxes 1 and 2 are junction boxes of the type specifically identified in heading 8536, HTSUS. They, together with box 3, function as interconnectors of electrical circuits classifiable in subheading 8536.90, HTSUS. Because box 4 functions both as an interconnector and as an apparatus for electric control, it is provided for in heading 8537, HTSUS.

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:

Other apparatus:


* * * * 8537 Boards, panels, consoles, desks, cabinets, and other bases, equipped with two or more apparatus of heading 8535 or 8536, for electric control or the distribution of electricity…:

For a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V:

8537.10.90 Other


Whether any or all of the boxes are prima facie classifiable in heading 8536; whether any or all are for electric control or the distribution of electricity. LAW AND ANALYSIS: Under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 1, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), goods are to be classified according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

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The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. Though not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The factual and legal arguments that you make in support of classifying boxes 1, 2 and 3 in heading 8536, HTSUS, are essentially these. First, heading 8537 does not apply because the relays the boxes contain are passive electro-mechanical devices designed to respond to signals sent by a switch found elsewhere in the vehicle and, thus, do not “control” or “distribute” electricity as required of apparatus of that heading. The control function is performed by the person turning a knob on the vehicle’s dash. Second. even if the boxes control electricity, they qualify as composite machines under Section XVI, Note 3, HTSUS, and their principal function is the interconnection of electrical circuits. Finally, the boxes are, prima facie, classifiable both under heading 8536 and under heading 8537 and, under GRI 3(a), HTSUS, heading 8536 provides the most specific description. Your claim that heading 8537 does not apply because none of the three boxes function to control or distribute electricity is not documented in the record. Likewise, there is no legal distinction between devices for passive electric control versus those for active electric control. Concerning your claim that the boxes are composite machines whose principal function is the interconnection of electrical circuits, the ENs on p. 1227 state that Note 3 to Section XVI need not be invoked when the composite machine is covered as such by a particular heading. Finally, concerning your claim under GRI 3(a), the heading 8536 ENs on p.1506 state the heading excludes assemblies (other than simple switch assemblies) of the apparatus mentioned [in the EN text]. Such assemblies are referred to heading 8537.

Junction boxes 1 and 2 contain metal terminals or connectors used to make a mechanical and electrical “connection” with mating terminals or connectors on wiring harnesses within the motor vehicle. In addition to numerous fuses, they also contain multiple relays. The terminals, fuses and relays are attached to what you refer to as a base. Fuses are expendable devices that eliminate overload on, and thus protect, an electric circuit. Relays are electromechanical or solid-state devices operated by variations in the input which, in turn, operate or control other devices connected to the output. Relays typically allow a small current to control a larger one. In operation, the small current energizes the relay, which then closes a gate, allowing the larger current to flow through to activate or control an output device. The heading 8536 ENs on

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p. 1504, which discuss relays, are in accord. Junction boxes 1 and 2, therefore, contain elements that protect electrical circuits (the fuses), elements that make connections to or in electrical circuits (the metal connectors) and elements that control electric current (the relays). Box 3, the power distribution box, has provision for fuses and relays and, in addition, contains two bus bars, which are electrical elements that interconnect two or more sources of electric power in a system and also distribute current between or among two or more different lines. Box 4 incorporates a bus bar, fuses, relays, resistors and terminals, and performs both an interconnective function and an electric control function.

From their respective terms, headings 8536 and 8537 are mutually exclusive. Heading 8536 covers individual apparatus such as relays or fuses, or multiples of one such apparatus, that are principally used for switching or protecting or for making connections to or in electrical circuits. On the other hand, heading 8537 covers assemblies of the apparatus described in heading 8536, for example, combinations of relays and fuses on a board, panel or other base whose principal use is to control or distribute electricity. Boxes 1, 2, 3, and 4 each conforms to the description for heading 8537. HOLDING:

Under the authority of GRI 1, the articles you refer to as junction boxes, models XF2T-14A067-AG and F81B-14A067-GD, the power distribution box, model KO 68-4743 L, and the power distribution junction box, are provided for in heading 8537. They are classifiable in subheading 8537.10.90, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division