CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 966973 RSD
TARRIF NO. 8543.89.96
Ms. Maria Da Rocha
D & C Customshouse Brokerage
701 Newark Avenue, Suite LL1
Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208
RE: Modification of NY H86520; “Fast Abs” System
Dear Ms. Da Rocha:
On December 26, 2001, the National Commodity Specialist Division of Customs and Border Protection issued to you, on behalf of Product of Tomorrow, a ruling, NY H86520, concerning the classification of the Fast Abs Abdominal Training system (Fast Abs). In NY H86520, Customs held that the Fast Abs system was classified in subheading 9506.91.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). In addition, NY H86520 held that the accompanying lithium batteries were classified in subheading 8506.50.00. We have reconsidered the classification of the Fast Abs system and now believe that it is incorrect. This ruling sets forth the correct classification of the Fast Abs system.
The Fast Abs was described in NY H86520 as a battery-operated muscle stimulation apparatus which is designed to deliver electronic stimulation signals that are supposed to strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles. It includes a torso adjustable comfort zone belt, a leg and arm adjustable comfort zone belt, an advanced muscle stimulator pad with adjustable tabs, an advanced muscle stimulator unit and two lithium batteries. The system also includes a firming gel that provides the conduit from the belt’s impulses to the muscle. The gel must be applied to the two contact spots on the inside of the unit, and also the skin that will be touching the contact points. The electrical muscle stimulation is applied through skin contact electrodes for the purposes of improving the tone, strength, and firmness of a focused muscles group. The Fast Abs system is an electrically powered muscle stimulator that is said to stimulate the muscles and to produce beneficial therapeutic effects by assisting in the contraction and relaxation of the focused muscles and the elimination of body fat.
In NY H86520, Customs classified the Fast Abs in subheading 9506.91.00, HTSUS, which provides for articles and equipment for general physical exercise…other, articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics, or athletics; parts and accessories thereof, other.
ISSUE: Whether the Fast Abs is classified in heading 9506, HTSUS, as articles and equipment for general physical exercise or in heading 8543, HTSUS as electrical machines and apparatus having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in Chapter 85.
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI’s). 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 Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN’s) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the EN’s 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 EN’s should always be consulted. See T.D. 8980, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).
The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:
8543 Electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof:
Other machines and apparatus:
* * * * * * * * *
9506 Articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics, athletics, other sports (including table-tennis) or outdoor games, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; swimming pools and wading pools; parts and accessories thereof:
9506.91.00 Articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics or athletics; parts and accessories thereof.
In NY H86520, Customs held that the Fast Abs system was classified in subheading 9506.91.00, HTSUS as articles and equipment for general physical exercise. In NY I82223 dated June 18, 2002, Customs determined that a similar product called the “Slendertone FLEX System” was classified in subheading 9506.91.00, HTSUS. However, in NY D88729, dated March 29, 1999, Customs ruled that an electronic muscle stimulator was classified in subheading 8543.89.96, HTSUS. Customs also ruled in NY A84349 dated July 2, 1996, that the Electro-Muscular Slimmer, a battery operated device, which was supposed to produce beneficial therapeutic effects by supplying electrical pulses to muscles was classified in subheading 8543.89.90, HTSUS. (This provision is identical to the current subheading 8543.89.96, HTSUS.) Therefore, in classifying the Fast Abs, we must determine whether it is an article for general physical exercise classified in heading 9506, HTSUS, or in heading 8543, HTSUS as an electrical machine and apparatus having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in chapter 85 of the HTSUS.
EN 95.06 provides that this heading covers:
(A) Articles and equipment for general physical exercise; gymnastics or athletics, e.g.:
Trapeze bars and rings; horizontal and parallel bars; balance beams, vaulting horses; pommel horses; spring boards; climbing ropes and ladders; wall bars; Indian clubs; dumb-bells and bar-bells; medicine balls; rowing, cycling and other exercising apparatus; chest expanders; hand grips; starting blocks; hurdles; jumping stands and standards; vaulting poles; landing pit pads; javelins, discuses, throwing hammers and putting shots; punch balls (speed bags) and punch bags (punching bags); boxing or wrestling rings; assault course climbing walls.
(B) Requisites for other sports and outdoor games (other than toys presented in sets, or separately, of heading 95.03), e.g:
(1) Snow-skis and other snow-ski equipment, (e.g., ski-fastenings (ski-bindings), ski brakes, ski poles).
(2) Water-skis, surfboards, sailboards and other water-sport equipment, such as diving stages (platforms), chutes, divers’ flippers and respiratory masks of a kind used without oxygen or compressed air bottles, and simple underwater breathing tubes (generally known as “snorkels”) for swimmers or divers.
(3) Golf clubs and other golf equipment, such as golf balls,
(4) Articles and equipment for table-tennis (ping-pong), such as tables (with or without legs), bats (paddles), balls and nets.
(5) Tennis, badminton or similar rackets (e.g., squash rackets), whether or not strung.
(6) Balls, other than golf balls and table-tennis balls, such as tennis balls, footballs, rugby balls and similar balls (including bladders and covers for such balls); water polo, basketball and similar valve type balls; cricket balls.
(7) Ice skates and roller skates, including skating boots with skates attached.
(8) Sticks and bats for hockey, cricket, lacrosse, etc.; chistera (jai alai scoops); pucks for ice hockey; curling stones.
(9) Nets for various games (tennis, badminton, volleyball, football, basketball, etc.).
(10) Fencing equipment : fencing foils, sabres and rapiers and their parts (e.g. blades, guards, hilts and buttons or stops), etc.
(11) Archery equipment, such as bows, arrows and targets.
(12) Equipment of a kind used in children’s playgrounds (e.g. swings, slides, see-saws and giant strides).
(13) Protective equipment for sports or games, e.g., fencing masks and breast plates, elbow and knee pads, cricket pads, shin-guards.
(14) Other articles and equipment, such as requisites for deck tennis, quoits or bowls; skate boards; racket presses; mallets for polo or croquet; boomerangs; ice axes; clay pigeons and clay pigeon projectors; bobsleighs (bobsleds), luges and similar non-motorised vehicles for sliding on snow or ice.
[Emphasis in original.]
In order to be classified in heading 9506, HTSUS, the articles must qualify as equipment for “general physical exercise.” Such equipment includes machines such as rowing, cycling, treadmill, stair steppers, and other exercising apparatus, dumbbells, barbells, climbing ropes, medicine balls, chest expanders and grips. Consequently, we must determine whether applying electrical stimulus to the abdominal muscles constitutes “general physical exercise.” However, neither the legal notes nor the ENs provide a definition by what is meant by the phrase “articles and equipment for general physical exercise.”
A tariff term that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the ENs is construed in accordance with its common and commercial meanings, which are presumed to be the same. Nippon Kogasku (USA) Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA 89, 673 F. 2d 380 (1982). Common and commercial meaning may be determined by consulting dictionaries, lexicons, scientific authorities and other reliable sources. C.J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 69 CCPA 128, 673 F. 2d 1268 (1982).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: (4th. ed., 2000) defines the term “exercise” in the following manner:
Activity that requires physical or mental exertion, especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness: took an hour of vigorous daily exercise at a gym. 4. A task, problem, or other effort performed to develop or maintain fitness.
A second dictionary, Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, defines “exercise” when used as a noun as “physical activity that you do to make your body strong and healthy: Swimming is my favourite form of exercise. You really should take more exercise. I do stomach exercises
most days.” [Emphasis in original.] It further defines “exercise” as a verb as: “to do physical activities to make your body strong and healthy: She exercises most evenings usually by running. A work-out in the gym will exercise all the major muscle groups.”
Based on these definitions, it appears that for something to be considered exercise it must involve some physical activity. EN 95.06 follows this understanding of exercise when it lists examples of the kind of items that are considered exercise equipment classified in heading 9506, HTSUS. An individual exercising with any of the items listed in EN 95.06 would have engage in some physical activity or movement. For example, exercising with Indian clubs; dumb-bells and bar-bells; medicine balls; rowing; cycling; and other exercising apparatus, etc. involves active movement on the part of an individual. Moreover, none of the items listed in EN 95.06 as articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics or athletics are electrical devices that can be used passively.
In this instance, we believe that no real physical activity is involved in using the Fast Abs. It is a self-operating electronic device. The user of the Fast Abs attaches the belt around his waist area and electrical impulses are transmitted to the abdominal muscles to stimulate them. The process of stimulating the abdominal muscles is done entirely by the Fast Abs. Other than attaching the belt and turning it on, the user does not engage in any other active physical movement. Significantly, the Fast Abs is designed for people who want the results of exercising without having to engage in an exercise activity.
Accordingly, because the Fast Abs does not involve any active participation on the part of the user, we conclude that it is not classified in heading 9506, HTSUS, as articles and equipment for general physical exercise. The alternative proposed classification for the Fast Abs is heading 8543, HTSUS.
EN 8543 states:
The electrical appliances and apparatus of this heading must have individual functions. The introductory provisions of Explanatory Note to heading 84.79 concerning machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions apply, mutatis mutandis, to the appliances and apparatus of this heading.
Most of the appliances of this heading consist of an assembly of electrical goods or parts (valves, transformers, capacitors, chokes, resistors, etc.) operating wholly electrically. However, the heading also
includes electrical goods incorporating mechanical features provided that such features are subsidiary to the electrical function of the machine or appliance.
[Emphasis in original.]
The Fast Abs is a battery-powered electrical apparatus that transmits electronic signals in order to stimulate the abdominal muscles. Thus, it has an individual function (i.e., its function can be performed distinctly from and independently of any other device) of stimulating the abdominal muscles. It is also not described elsewhere in chapter 85 of the HTSUS. Accordingly, we find that the Fast Abs system fits within the language of heading 8543, HTSUS. Specifically, we conclude that the Fast Abs system is classified in subheading 8543.89.96, HTSUS.
The Fast Abs Abdominal Training system is classified in subheading 8543.89.96, HTSUS which provides for: “Electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter parts thereof: Other machines and apparatus Other: Other: Other: Other.”
EFFECT ON OTHER RULINGS:
NY H86520 dated December 26, 2001 is modified.
Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial Rulings Division