At the beginning of the year, in a ruling on 27.2.2020 (C-670/19 ), the ECJ addressed the customs tariff number for metal curtain rods.
According to this ruling, curtain rails of base metal are to be classified under tariff heading 8302 41 90 as construction fittings of base metal.
However, this is subject to the condition that the products concerned are not profiles, tubes, or rods which have simply been cut to the desired length.
At the same time, the ECJ emphasised in its ruling that it was under the jurisdiction of a specialised court to classify the product in terms of tariff headings. The relevant ECJ case law on the criteria for tariff classification must then be taken into account, the court stated.
Customs tariff number for curtain rods
The products concerned are metal curtain rods, each hollow and horizontally welded, with a constant circular cross-section of 16 or 20 mm. The ends of the rods are each closed with a plastic plug. Their only purpose, however, is to secure the curtain during transport.
The surfaces are either painted or galvanised, i.e. covered with a thin layer of metal.
In the specific case before the ECJ, the curtain rods were sold as part of a modular system. This meant that customers could put together and purchase a set of curtain rods consisting of several individual parts.
According to the ECJ, such a product is to be classified under customs tariff heading 8302 41 90 as construction fittings of base metal.
However, this tariff heading does not cover
- Building hardware for doors
- Building hardware for windows
- Building hardware for French doors
- Locks and security bolts with key hinges
Dispute over the transport process
Previously, during a customs investigation, the product was classified as “other tubes and pipes of iron or non-alloy steel” under tariff heading 7306 3077 800, and was found to be duty-free.
The problem in this case was as follows: Imports from China of certain welded tubes and pipes, of iron or non-alloy steel, classified under tariff heading 7306 30 77 were subject to an anti-dumping duty of 90.6% at the time of importation. This resulted in substantial back payments.
The importer had declared the product as “other mountings, fittings and similar articles for furniture” under tariff heading 8302 4200 900. In their appeal, the company pointed out that the curtain rods were imported together with accessories such as the end pieces, brackets, and rings. It would therefore also have been clear that the intended use of the product was to make curtain rods. Moreover, the label on the packaging of the product was another clear indication.eingeführt wurden.
The central customs office responsible, however, disputed this representation: the import in some cases consisted exclusively of curtain rods. However, classification under customs tariff number 8302 41 90 was only possible if the rods in question had been imported together with the brackets required for fixing them to a wall or ceiling.
Another major point of contention was that the poles could not be classified as a “disassembled, not yet assembled” curtain ensemble. At the time they were presented to customs, it had not yet been decided with which items they were to be assembled.
The ECJ now ruled in favour of the company. In its decision, the European Court of Justice referred to the more specific customs tariff numbers from Chapter 83, which are to be applied here as a matter of precedence.
Curtain rods are construction fittings
The disputed curtain rails are tubes which are individually wrapped in a protective film and closed at their ends by plastic plugs. Those plugs could be used as decorative end pieces. In that regard, the applicant submits that, in contrast to classical tubes, the external appearance of the goods or even their decorative function is also important.
Bei den strittigen Gardinenstangen handele es sich um Rohre, die einzeln in einer Schutzfolie verpackt und an ihren Enden durch Kunststoffstopfen verschlossen werden. Diese könnten als Deko-Endstücke verwendet werden. Hierbei komme es auch im Gegensatz zu klassischen Rohrleitungen auch auf das äußere Erscheinungsbild der Ware oder sogar ihre dekorative Funktion an.
It is true that the tubes in question do not have any holes or milled holes for sliders. However, the surfaces of the rods would take on a copper-coloured marbled or coloured lacquered appearance if they were painted or electroplated accordingly.
Zwar wiesen die betreffenden Rohre keine Bohrungen oder Fräsungen für Gleiter auf. Die Oberflächen der Stangen bekämen aber durch eine entsprechende Lackierung oder Galvanisierung ein kupferfarben marmoriertes oder farbig lackiertes Aussehen.
In this respect, they are to be classified as building fittings and not as profiles, tubes, or rods that have only been cut to the desired length.
The explanatory notes of the combined nomenclature to HS Heading 8302 also expressly mention curtain rails. This should be taken as an additional indication.
However, in this case, the label on the packaging of the curtain rods is not of decisive importance for the classification of the product, according to the ECJ.
The ECJ also explained that the tariff classification does not depend on whether the product in question can be considered as a base metal product or as a component of such.
Indeed, “base metal parts” of goods of Chapter 83 are also classified under Chapter 83 according to the tariff classification. Since the product in question is not expressly mentioned in the customs tariff, it must be classified under heading 8302 41 90 in accordance with the fallback principle.
The objection that the curtain rails were not systematically imported together with the brackets enabling them to be fixed to a wall or ceiling is irrelevant and does not preclude classification under customs tariff number 8302 41 90.
Customs tariff number for shower curtain rods
In its ruling, the ECJ also referred to the European Commission’s Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1472. In a similar case in 2017, the Commission had already established a classification of shower curtain rods under tariff heading 8302 41 90 as ‘fittings and similar articles, of base metal, of iron or steel, and building hardware’.
The shower curtain rail was an aluminium bar used to hang a curtain, consisting of two tubes inserted one inside the other, with a mechanism including a steel spring to hold the tubes between two walls. The justification for this classification was based on the objective structural features, which only allowed a light-weight load, such as a curtain. This type of curtain rod is to be classified under heading 8302, according to the Commission.