Parties
Subject of the case
Grounds
Decision on costs
Operative part

Parties

IN CASE 130/82

REFERENCE TO THE COURT UNDER ARTICLE 177 OF THE EEC TREATY BY THE RECHTBANK VAN EERSTE AANLEG ( COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE ), ANTWERP , FOR A PRELIMINARY RULING IN THE PROCEEDINGS PENDING BEFORE THAT COURT BETWEEN

NAAMLOZE VENNOOTSCHAP FARR COMPANY , BRASSCHAAT , BELGIUM ,

AND

BELGIAN STATE , REPRESENTED BY THE MINISTER OF FINANCE ,

Subject of the case

ON THE INTERPRETATION OF VARIOUS PROVISIONS OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF AND OF VARIOUS EXPLANATORY NOTES THERETO ,

Grounds

1 BY JUDGMENT OF 1 APRIL 1982 , RECEIVED AT THE COURT ON 9 APRIL 1982 , THE RECHTBANK VAN EERSTE AANLEG ( COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE ), ANTWERP , REFERRED TO THE COURT FOR A PRELIMINARY RULING PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 177 OF THE EEC TREATY TWO QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE INTERPRETATION OF VARIOUS HEADINGS OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF .

2 THOSE QUESTIONS WERE RAISED IN THE CONTEXT OF AN ACTION BROUGHT AGAINST THE BELGIAN STATE BY A PUBLIC COMPANY WHICH , FROM 1973 TO 1976 , IMPORTED INTO BELGIUM UNDER TARIFF SUBHEADING 84.18 C II ( ' ' MACHINERY AND APPARATUS . . . FOR FILTERING OR PURIFYING LIQUIDS OR GASES ' ' ) AIR FILTERS PRINCIPALLY INTENDED TO BE USED IN AIR-PURIFYING PLANTS . IN 1976 , HOWEVER , THE BELGIAN CUSTOMS AUTHORITY , BY TWO DECISIONS , CLASSIFIED SOME OF THOSE FILTERS UNDER TARIFF SUBHEADING 59.17 D ( TEXTILE FABRICS AND TEXTILE ARTICLES , OF A KIND COMMONLY USED IN MACHINERY OR PLANT - OTHER ) AND OTHERS UNDER SUBHEADING 70.20 A ( GLASS FIBRE ( INCLUDING WOOL ), YARNS , FABRICS AND ARTICLES MADE THEREFROM - NON-TEXTILE FIBRE AND ARTICLES MADE THEREFROM ). THE CUSTOMS AUTHORITY BASED ITS DECISIONS ON NOTE 1 ( E ) TO SECTION XVI AND NOTE 1 ( C ) TO CHAPTER 84 OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF .

3 THE COMPANY WHICH IMPORTED THE FILTERS BROUGHT AN ACTION AGAINST THOSE DECISIONS BEFORE THE RECHTBANK VAN EERSTE AANLEG , CLAIMING THAT THE GOODS SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 84.18 C II , MENTIONED ABOVE .

4 THE RECHTBANK STAYED THE PROCEEDINGS AND REFERRED TO THE COURT TWO QUESTIONS AS TO WHETHER THE FILTERS SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED UNDER TARIFF SUBHEADING 84.18 C II OR UNDER TARIFF SUBHEADINGS 59.17 D AND 70.20 A .

5 THE FIRST QUESTION , RELATING TO TARIFF HEADINGS NOS 84.18 AND 59.17 , CONCERNS TWO AIR FILTERS KNOWN AS THE 30/30 FILTER ( CONSISTING OF A PLEATED SHEET OF TEXTILE MATERIAL REINFORCED WITH WIRE AND MOUNTED IN A CARDBOARD FRAME ) AND THE HP 2 A FILTER ( CONSISTING OF A PLEATED MEMBRANE OF TEXTILE MATERIAL FITTED ABOVE AND BELOW WITH A CARDBOARD SHEET ).

6 THE SECOND QUESTION , RELATING TO TARIFF HEADINGS NOS 84.18 AND 70.20 , CONCERNS THREE AIR FILTERS KNOWN AS THE HP FILTER ( CONSISTING OF A PLEATED SHEET OF GLASS WOOL REINFORCED WITH A MEMBRANE OF SYNTHETIC NYLON FIBRE AND FITTED ABOVE AND BELOW WITH A CARDBOARD SHEET ), THE TYPE 83 FILTER ( CONSISTING OF FIBREGLASS MATTING WOUND ON REELS AND REINFORCED ON ONE SIDE BY A WEAVE WITH GAUZE BINDING OF PREDOMINANTLY SYNTHETIC FIBRE ) AND THE ECO FILTER ( CONSISTING OF A SQUARE MEMBRANE OF FIBREGLASS MOUNTED IN A CARDBOARD FRAME BETWEEN TWO THIN PERFORATED METAL SHEETS ).

7 AS A GENERAL RULE , PARTS OF MACHINERY OR APPLIANCES MUST BE CLASSIFIED UNDER THE SAME HEADING AS THE MACHINERY OR APPLIANCES IN WHICH THEY ARE INTENDED TO BE FITTED , WHICH IN THE CASE OF THE FILTERS IN QUESTION WOULD LEAD TO THEIR BEING CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 84.18 C II .

8 HOWEVER , IT MAY BE SEEN FROM NOTE 1 ( E ) TO SECTION XVI OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF AND FROM NOTE 1 ( C ) TO CHAPTER 84 OF THE TARIFF THAT THE ABOVE-MENTIONED GENERAL RULE DOES NOT APPLY TO ARTICLES OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OF A KIND COMMONLY USED IN MACHINERY OR PLANT , WHICH MUST ALWAYS BE CLASSIFIED UNDER HEADING NO 59.17 , OR TO MACHINERY AND APPLIANCES AND PARTS THEREOF , OF GLASS , WHICH MUST ALWAYS BE CLASSIFIED UNDER HEADING NO 70.20 OR 70.21 . IN VIEW OF THOSE SPECIFIC RULES , RECOURSE MAY NOT BE HAD , FOR THE CLASSIFICATION OF THOSE ARTICLES , TO RULE 3 ( A ) OF THE RULES FOR THE INTERPRETATION OF THE NOMENCLATURE OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF , A RULE OF A GENERAL NATURE WHICH STATES THAT THE HEADING WHICH PROVIDES THE MORE SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION IS TO BE PREFERRED TO HEADINGS PROVIDING A MORE GENERAL DESCRIPTION .

9 THE PLAINTIFF IN THE MAIN PROCEEDINGS POINTS OUT THAT THE FILTERS IN QUESTION HAVE LOST THEIR CHARACTER OF ARTICLES OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OR OF GLASS FIBRE BY THE ADDITION OF OTHER COMPONENTS , FOR EXAMPLE BONDING AGENTS OR ADHESIVES AND COVERING MATERIALS SUCH AS METALLIC SHEETS OR CARDBOARD FRAMES . EACH OF THOSE COMPONENTS HAS ITS OWN FUNCTION , EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT AS THAT OF THE TEXTILE MATERIAL OR THE GLASS FIBRE . MOREOVER , THEIR WEIGHT AND THEIR VALUE ARE GREATER THAN THOSE OF THE TEXTILE MATERIAL OR THE GLASS FIBRE . IN THAT REGARD , THE APPLICANT RELIES ON VARIOUS PARAGRAPHS OF THE CUSTOMS COOPERATION COUNCIL ' S EXPLANATORY NOTES , WHICH IN FACT AMOUNT TO SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS OF RULE 3 ( B ) OF THE RULES FOR THE INTERPRETATION OF THE NOMENCLATURE OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF , ACCORDING TO WHICH COMPOSITE GOODS WHICH CONSIST OF DIFFERENT MATERIALS OR ARE MADE UP OF DIFFERENT COMPONENTS AND WHICH CANNOT BE CLASSIFIED BY REFERENCE TO RULE 3 ( A ) ARE TO BE CLASSIFIED AS IF THEY CONSISTED OF THE MATERIAL OR COMPONENT WHICH GIVES THEM THEIR ESSENTIAL CHARACTER .

10 IN THAT CONNECTION , IT SHOULD BE EMPHASIZED THAT THE ESSENTIAL CHARACTER OF THE FILTERS DERIVES FROM THEIR FILTERING CAPACITY . THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN IN THE QUESTIONS PUT TO THE COURT SHOWS THAT THE SHEETS OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OR OF GLASS FIBRE CONSTITUTE , FOR ALL THE FILTERS IN QUESTION , THE COMPONENT WHICH IS INDISPENSABLE FOR THE FILTERING PROCESS . THE BONDING AGENT AND THE ADHESIVES ARE USED TO IMPROVE THE FILTERING CAPACITY AND TO RETAIN THE IMPURITIES . THE COVERING MATERIALS ARE USED , IN PARTICULAR , TO FACILITATE THE ASSEMBLY OF THE FILTERS . ALTHOUGH IN SOME CASES THEIR WEIGHT AND THEIR VALUE EXCEED THOSE OF THE SHEETS OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OR GLASS FIBRE , THEY ARE NEVERTHELESS ACCESSORIES IN RELATION TO THOSE COMPONENTS . THEREFORE , THEY MAY NOT BE SAID TO DEPRIVE THE FILTERS OF THEIR CHARACTER OF ARTICLES OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OR OF GLASS FIBRE OF A KIND COMMONLY USED IN MACHINERY OR PLANT .

11 CONSEQUENTLY , THE COURT ' S REPLY TO THE QUESTIONS REFERRED TO IT MUST BE THAT THE AIR FILTERS THE COMPOSITION OF WHICH IS DESCRIBED IN THOSE QUESTIONS SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED AS ARTICLES OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OF A KIND COMMONLY USED IN MACHINERY OR PLANT UNDER HEADING NO 59.17 OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF OR AS MACHINERY AND APPLIANCES AND PARTS THEREOF , OF GLASS , UNDER HEADING NO 70.20 OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF , ACCORDING TO WHETHER THE FILTERING COMPONENT CONSISTS OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OR OF GLASS FIBRE .

Decision on costs

COSTS

12 THE COSTS INCURRED BY THE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT AND BY THE COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES , WHICH HAVE SUBMITTED OBSERVATIONS TO THE COURT , ARE NOT RECOVERABLE . AS THESE PROCEEDINGS ARE , IN SO FAR AS THE PARTIES TO THE MAIN PROCEEDINGS ARE CONCERNED , IN THE NATURE OF A STEP IN THE PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE NATIONAL COURT , THE DECISION ON COSTS IS A MATTER FOR THAT COURT .

Operative part

ON THOSE GROUNDS ,

THE COURT ( SECOND CHAMBER ),

IN ANSWER TO THE QUESTIONS REFERRED TO IT BY THE RECHTBANK VAN EERSTE AANLEG , ANTWERP , BY A JUDGMENT OF 1 APRIL 1982 , HEREBY RULES :

THE AIR FILTERS THE COMPOSITION OF WHICH IS DESCRIBED IN THE QUESTIONS REFERRED TO THE COURT MUST BE CLASSIFIED AS ARTICLES OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OF A KIND COMMONLY USED IN MACHINERY OR PLANT UNDER HEADING NO 59.17 OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF OR AS MACHINERY AND APPLIANCES AND PARTS THEREOF , OF GLASS , UNDER HEADING NO 70.20 OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF , ACCORDING TO WHETHER THE FILTERING COMPONENT CONSISTS OF TEXTILE MATERIAL OR OF GLASS FIBRE .