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Court Rules on Classification of Restroom Sanitation Device Components

Monday, December 08, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The U.S. Court of International Trade ruled Dec. 2 that certain components of two restroom sanitation devices are properly classified as other electrical machines and apparatus under subheading 8543.90.88 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. (2.6 percent duty). The parts at issue are dispensers and refills of products that (a) dispense a flow of fragrance oil to scent the air of public restrooms and (b) deliver cleaning liquid into the water stream of a toilet or urinal. The plaintiff had argued for classification as mechanical appliances for dispersing liquids under HTSUS subheading 8424.90.90 (duty-free).

The CIT first concluded that the principal function of the devices at issue is not to disperse liquids. The court cites U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s ruling HQ H103965 of January 2012 as a “persuasive” interpretation that “disperse” means to spread or distribute widely from a fixed or constant source, to scatter, or to distribute more or less evenly through a medium, whereas “dispense” means to deal out in portions. The devices at issue meet the latter description because they dispense liquids to a single point and then passively permit air and water currents to carry them in different directions.

The CIT also determined that the devices are electrical rather than mechanical appliances. The devices function through pressure that builds when a fuel cell produces hydrogen gas through an electrochemical process. The court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that this process is mechanical on the grounds that the devices do not incorporate moving parts. Instead, the CIT agreed with CBP that the devices operate electrically because the reaction in the fuel cells depends on the movement of electronics and thus electricity.

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