Public administrations across Europe continue to discriminate in their IT calls for tender by asking for specific brands and products, concludes OpenForum Europe, an organisation advocating an open, competitive ICT market. "Thousands of small IT firms are excluded from competing in the public procurement process by restrictions such as the naming of trademarks in calls for tender", said Graham Taylor, OFE's CEO, in a press statement.
Naming trademarks in tenders is viewed as discriminatory and, except under specific and exceptional circumstances, is against existing EU procurement laws, explains OFE in its press release. "By specifying one preferred supplier, public bodies are inadvertently helping dominant firms maintain their stranglehold on markets to the detriment of smaller competitors. In addition, the lack of competition often leads to greater expenses, resulting in a waste of EU's taxpayer money."
It is the sixth consecutive year that OFE has studied samples of ICT procurement notices. It looked at 843 requests for computer software products, all published between October and December last year on TED. The advocacy group found that 22 percent of these made explicit references to brands and trademarks. In its report, OFE notes that this is merely the 'tip of the iceberg', as the group only looked for trademarks and did not scan procurement notices for discriminatory wording. Also, in some cases detailed information was only made available to registered potential bidders.
OFE is calling on EU decision-makers to adopt necessary measures to open up public procurement to all economic operators. "Considering that public procurement amounts to about 19 percent of the economic activity in the EU, an unchecked widespread discriminatory practice can have a very important impact on the market."
The group also wants public authorities to respect the EU Public Procurement Directives, and is calling for a better application of the "Guide for the procurement of standards-based ICT – Elements of good practice", a guideline that is part of the Commission's Digital Agenda. To promote this guideline, and to boost the use of standards when procuring ICT, the EC recently started a community on Joinup. The community will collect best practices and provide ways to reduce IT vendor lock-in.