Monday, June 22, 2015

Ruling of the Week 2015.19: Balance Ball Chairs

The good news is that I have a couple interesting customs law cases to post this week. the Court of International Trade has been busy with customs matters, and that is good for me.

The bad news is that I missed posting a ROTW last week. I will try to double up this week.

This ruling of the week involves a "balance ball chair." Hat tip to an astute reader who pointed it out to me.

In N009306, Customs classified a "chair" in 9401.80.40 as an other seat, of rubber or plastic. The chair was entitled to duty-free entry to the United States. Customs considered a similar chair in N144757. In that ruling, Customs and Border Protection classified the chair in 9506.91.00 as an article or equipment for general physical exercise with a duty rate of 4.6%. Clearly, this is not your average chair, which is usually the opposite of exercise equipment.

Rather, these are balance ball chairs. In the Customs Bulletin of June 10, 2015, CBP is proposing to revoke N009306 and classify that balance ball chair as exercise equipment.

Here is the description of the chair from N144757:

The product consists of an exercise balance ball and ergonomic desk chair frame. The frame portion includes these features: an adjustable narrow cushion back, adjustable legs and lockable castor wheels. The PVC exercise ball fits securely into the metal frame, forming an ergonomic desk chair. The ball can be removed and used for exercise purposes, while the desk chair frame can not function as a chair without the ball. The retail package will also include a plastic pump and an instructional DVD demonstrating six different exercise routines. 

The Customs Bulletin has some interesting pictures of the item.

Customs determined that the item is prima facie described both as a chair and as exercise equipment. That means the classification will depend on which of the two possible headings most specifically describes the chair. This is based on General Rule of Interpretation 3(a), which is the rule of relative specificity. The heading with conditions that are more difficult to satisfy and that describe the article most accurately is generally the correct heading. Also, as between a use provision and an eo nomine provision, the use provision is generally understood as the more specific. But, according to Customs, this rule will not apply if the eo nomine provision is "obviously more specific."

"Chairs" is an eo nomine description for items on which people sit. That describes this balance ball chair. Articles "for general physical exercise" is a use provision in that the goods must be used for physical exercise. Applying the traditional rule of thumb, Customs holds that the use provision is the more specific provision. Consequently, the balance ball chairs are classified in Heading 9506.

That means CBP is proposing to revoke N009306.

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