Classification of LCD "dual-use" monitors

01 May 2009

Staatssecretaris van Financiën v Kamino International Logistics (2009) (Case C-376/07).

There have been a number of cases recently at the European Court concerned with items or goods that can be used for more than one purpose and the difficulties of classifying them for customs purposes. The court once again was faced with this issue in the case of Staatssecretaris van Financiën v Kamino International Logistics (2009) (Case C-376/07).

 

The Issue

This case concerned the classification of LCD monitors with the following specifications:

  • Screen Size of 53.48 × 46.55 × 24.84 cm (w x h x d) with a 58.42 cm (23 inch) diagonal measurement; 
  • Maximum resolution of 1 920 × 1 200 pixels; 
  • Screen aspect ratio of 16:10;  
  • Horizontal picture frequency of 30 to 81 kHz; 
  • Vertical picture frequency of 50 to 76 Hz; 
  • Brightness of 250 candela per square metre; 
  • 16.7 million colours and 
  •  A contrast ratio of 500:1.

According to the Dutch customs authorities, these LCD monitors had to be classified under subheading 8528 21 90 (14% duty rate) whilst Kamino took the view that these monitors were classifiable under subheading 8471 60 90 (0% duty rate). The customs authorities previously classified the monitors based upon the presence of correctors in the unit.

Questions referred to the ECJ

The Dutch Supreme Court decided to refer the following three questions to the ECJ:

  • If a colour monitor can display both signals from an automatic data-processing machine (as per heading 8471 CN) and from other sources, does this mean that the monitor is excluded from being classed under heading 8471?
  • If classification under heading 8471 is not excluded, what criteria must be used to determine whether it is a unit of that sort that is solely or principally used in automatic data-processing system?
  • Does the scope of application of Regulation No. 754/2004 (the Annex to which classifies, in subheading 8528 21 90, two types of plasma screen with technical characteristics enabling them to display data from an automatic data-processing machine or another source, such as a DVD player or a video games player (or console) via a tuner box) extend to monitors such as those at issue in the main proceedings?

Judgement of the ECJ

The ECJ ruled that classification of the monitors such as those at issue in subheading 8471 60 90, as units of the kind used ‘principally’ in an automatic data-processing system within the meaning of Note 5(B)(a) to Chapter 84 of the CN is not precluded on the sole ground that they are capable of displaying signals coming from both an automatic data-processing machine and from other sources. In other words, LCD monitors which can not only display signals from a computer but also from other sources (e.g. DVD player, games console, etc) cannot for this reason alone be precluded from being classified under subheading 8471 60 90 since they may still be of a kind used ‘principally’ with a computer.

Secondly, the Court ruled that in order to determine whether monitors such as those at issue are units of the kind used principally in an automatic data-processing system, the national authorities, including the courts, must refer to the indications given in the Explanatory Notes relating to heading 8471 of the HS, in particular to points 1 to 5 of Part One, Chapter I (d), relating to display units of automatic data-processing machines:

  •  standard connection sockets for computers
  •  intended to be viewed close up
  •  cannot display television signals
  •  low magnetic field emissions
  •  display pitch starts at 0.41 mm for medium resolution and gets smaller as the resolution increases
  •  bandwidth (video frequency) is 15 MHz or greater
  •  dimension of the pixels on the screen is smaller than that for video monitors in heading 8528
  •  convergence of computer monitors is greater than for video monitors

With regard to the applicability of Regulation 754/2004 to the monitors at issue, the ECJ decided that this Regulation did not apply. According to the ECJ, the plasma monitors mentioned in the Regulation are not identical nor sufficiently similar to apply this Regulation to the monitors at issue.

The monitor mentioned in the Regulation concerned a plasma screen with a diagonal screen measurement of 41.73 inch and a resolution of 852 × 480 pixels and 1 024 × 1 024 pixels respectively, whilst the monitor at issue concerned an LCD screen with a diagonal screen measurement of 23 inch and a resolution of 1 920 × 1 200 pixels.

Has this clarified the situation?

With its judgment that monitors which can display signals from computers as well as from other sources cannot for this reason alone be excluded from classification under subheading 8471 60 90, the ECJ has clarified part of the ongoing dispute on the proper classification of LCD monitors. It is now up to the national courts and the customs administrations of the different Member States to apply the criteria as set out in the Explanatory Notes to heading 8471 of the HS, in particular points 1 to 5 of Part One, Chapter I (d) when determining whether these LCD monitors are to be considered of the kind used ‘principally’ with a computer.

Other Steps

There are a number of steps businesses can take to minimise the risk of complex classification issues especially concerning “dual-use” goods:

  • In areas of uncertainty of classifying goods, businesses may apply for Binding Tariff Information (BTI) from HMRC. HMRC are obliged by law to issue a BTI on written request. 
  • It may be worth reviewing your goods (especially if they are “dual-use”) to see if they are affected by new case-law provisions. 
  • Regular review of the Customs Tariff is advisable to check for updated codes etc

International Trade Solutions has worked with a number of clients on complex classification issues and successfully classifying goods which subsequently attracted lower duty rates. If you would like further information on the above then please call 01905 619229 or e-mail mail@internationaltradesolutions.co.uk

 

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