CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 953841 BC

Judith L. Haggin
P.O. Box 8829
Portland, Oregon 97208

RE: Reconsideration of NYRL 863684; classification of insulated plastic beverage coolers

Dear Ms. Haggin:

This responds to your letter of February 25, 1993, concerning the referenced subject. We have reviewed your submission and our response follows.


On June 17, 1991, Customs issued New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 863684. It classified the merchandise here at issue under subheading 4202.92.4500, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), which covers travel, sports and similar bags, with outer surface of plastic sheeting. The ruling described the merchandise as follows:

The submitted sample is an insulated carry bag designed with a detachable shoulder strap to be carried on the shoulder as well as affixed to a golf cart. It is constructed with an outer surface of vinyl. The interior is insulated and designed to contain six cans of beverage. The item measures approximately 5 3/4 inches in width and 17 1/2 inches in length.

In your letter of February 25, 1993, you requested that we reconsider NYRL 863684. You contend that the merchandise should be classified under subheading 3923.10.0000, HTSUSA, covering articles of plastic used for the conveying or packing of goods. You cited Sports Graphics Inc. v. United States, 806 F. Supp. 268 (CIT 1992), as authority for your position. You submitted with your request two samples, both soft-sided cooler bags for carrying six beverage cans. Both were equipped with a carrying strap for ease of transport and both were equipped with straps for attaching the cooler to a golf bag. The package for one of the cooler bags shows it being used at picnics, attached to a golf bag, while boating, while travelling in a car, and attached to a bench at an "event." The package for the other cooler bag shows it attached to a golf bag and capable of unattached use by means of the carrying strap.


What is the proper classification for the plastic insulated coolers at issue?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined in accordance with the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Where goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, the remaining rules will be applied in sequential order.

The Explanatory Notes (EN's) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System assist us in the classification of merchandise. The EN's constitute the official interpretation of the nomenclature at the international level. While not legally binding, they represent the considered views of classification experts of the Harmonized System Committee. It has been the practice of the Customs Service to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the EN's when interpreting the HTSUS. In Treasury Decision (T.D.) 89-80, Customs stated that the EN's should always be consulted as guidance when classifying merchandise. (See T.D. 89-80, quoting from a report of the Joint Committee on the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, endorsing use of the EN's in the classification of goods. 23 Cust. Bull. 379 (1989), 54 Fed. Reg. 35,127 (August 23, 1989).)

This issue has been raised before. In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 953458, dated April 16, 1993, and HRL 953583, dated May 26, 1993, Customs classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA, soft-sided cooler bags, both used for the transport and storage of food and/or beverages. In both cases, the importers cited Sports Graphics as precedent to support their view that the coolers should not be classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA.

In HRL 953458, we stated the following regarding Sports Graphics:

We note that Sports Graphics does not operate as precedent in this case. Sports Graphics was decided under the TSUS, which has been superseded by the HTSUSA. In addition, heading 4202, HTSUSA, and item 706, TSUS, are not analogous provisions, as heading 4202 contains language and exemplars not included in item 706. Hence, these provisions vary in scope.

Furthermore, item 772, TSUS, which provides for articles chiefly used for preparing, serving or storing food or beverages, bears no resemblance to headings 3923, 3926 or 6307, HTSUSA. In Sports Graphics, the Court relied on General Interpretive Rule 10(e) to resolve the dispute. This rule governed classification of goods based upon the principle of "chief use." General Interpretive Rule 10(e) was not carried over into the HTSUSA. In addition, the doctrine of chief or principle use is not at issue in this case because containers classifiable under heading 4202 are completely excluded from headings 3923, 3926 and 6307. See Section XI, note 1(l); Chapter 39, note 2(h).

The foregoing sets forth our view that Sports Graphics is inapplicable to the classification of the coolers at issue. See also HRL 953583.

You cited two Customs classification rulings as precedent for the proposition that the coolers at issue should be classified under heading 3923, HTSUSA. In HRL 085323, dated September 14, 1989, Customs classified a molded plastic insulated cooler under subheading 3923.10.0000, HTSUSA, as an article of plastic used for the conveyance or packing of goods. The ruling cited as precedent HRL 083362, dated July 21, 1989, which classified a similar cooler under the same heading, using the same rationale. In HRL 082788, dated February 12, 1990, another cooler was classified as an article for the conveyance and packing of goods under heading 3923, HTSUSA.

These rulings no longer represent Customs position regarding coolers and cooler bags. (Note that the Explanatory Notes of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System set forth that articles of heading 4202, HTSUSA, can be either soft-sided or rigid. Thus, hard and soft-sided coolers are covered.) In HRL 088075, dated October 24, 1990, HRL 083362 - upon which HRL 085323 was based - was revoked. Classification of coolers as articles "for the conveyance and packing of goods" was rejected on the grounds that heading 3923, HTSUSA, covers articles used more for the storage and transport of goods in relatively large quantities, including commercial quantities, as opposed to the storage and transport of relatively small quantities of food and/or beverages for a short period of time and for personal use, such as for camping, picnics, parties, car trips, and days at the beach. It was reasoned that picnic coolers are different in use and purpose from carboys and casks, the latter being exemplars mentioned in the Explanatory Notes for heading 3923. The ruling (HRL 088075) cited HRL 087635, also issued on October 24, 1990, which classified similar coolers under heading 4202, HTSUSA, rejecting classification under heading 3923, HTSUSA, for the same reason.

Moreover, in HRL 950467, dated December 24, 1991 - a ruling wherein we classified a molded plastic picnic cooler under heading 4202, HTSUSA - we stated that HRL 082788, which you cited in your letter, no longer represents Customs position regarding this type of merhcandise. See also HRL 953275, dated April 26, 1993.

Thus, we apply the holdings and rationale of HRL's 953458 and 953583 to the facts of the instant case. In those cases, Additional U.S. Note 1 of Chapter 42 was quoted as follows:

For the purposes of heading 4202, the expression "travel, sports and similar bags" means goods, other than those falling in subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, of a kind designed for carrying clothing and other personal effects during travel, including backpacks and shopping bags of this heading, but does not include binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, bottle cases and similar containers.

Food, whether in a shopping bag, backpack or cooler bag, is a personal effect. Since each of these articles is used - whether always, usually, or sometimes - to carry personal amounts of food and/or beverage, they all qualify as "travel bags" within the above note. (It is clear that shopping bags and coolers are used to carry food and/or beverages; backpack is defined as follows: "to carry (food or equipment) on the back, esp. in hiking." (Emphasis supplied.) Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Co. (1977).)

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the coolers at issue, soft-sided insulated coolers of plastic sheeting used for the storage and transport of beverages, are classifiable under subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA. NYRL 863684 is affirmed.


The soft-sided insulated coolers used for the temporary storage and transport of beverages for personal use are classifiable under subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA. The applicable duty rate is 20 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division