On appeal from: [2015] EWCA Civ 25

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, in a case that considered the appropriate customs classification of a mastectomy bra imported by the appellant. The bra was designed to be worn by women who had undergone surgery for the removal or one or both breasts, and a question arose as to whether it should be classified as brassiere or as an an “orthopaedic appliance”, “artificial part of the body”, or “other appliance… worn… to compensate for a defect or disability.” No duty was payable on goods that qualified under the latter category.

The Court of Appeal had reversed the Upper Tribunal decision and confirmed the finding of the First-tier Tribunal that it was brasserie.

Lord Carnwarth gave the only judgment.

The Supreme Court considered the Court of Justice of the EU decision in the Uroplasty case (C-514/04), where it was said that the intended use of a product could be relevant for tariff classification. It accepted the Court of Appeal’s findings that the bra itself was not the object supporting or holding parts of the body and did not amount to an appliance to compensate for a defect or disability. However, it held that the bra did amount to a “part” or “accessory” and was “suitable for use solely or principally with” the breast form, and so should be classified in the same category as artificial parts of the body.

On a natural reading of the guidance, the bra was an “accessory”, as it enabled the artificial breast form to perform its function. It thus qualified as a “a particular service relative to (its) main function.”

For judgment, please download: [2016] UKSC 41

For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary

For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court website (7 Jun 2016 morning session), (7 Jun 2016 afternoon session).