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Updated 13/06/2017

Tendering rules and procedures

As a business registered in the EU, you have the right to compete for public contracts in other EU countries.EU law sets minimum harmonised rules that apply to tenders above a certain value (see thresholds below).

For lower value tenders, national rules apply. These have to respect the general principles of EU law. ‘Below threshold' procedures may be simplified compared to EU-wide tenders.

For all tenders, public authorities:

  • may not discriminate against businesses registered in another EU country
  • may not refer to specific brands, trademarks or patents when describing the characteristics of products & services they wish to purchase
  • may not refuse to accept supporting documents (certificates, diplomas, etc.) issued by another EU country, as long as they provide the same level of guarantee
  • must make all information regarding tenders available to all interested companies, regardless of the EU country they are registered in

A public authority can exclude your business from a call for tenders if it:

  • is bankrupt or being wound up
  • has suspended its activities or its activities are administered by a court
  • has been found guilty of grave misconduct
  • has not paid taxes or social security contributions
  • has made false declarations to a public authority

There are specific cases when public authorities may award contracts without publishing a call for tenders:

  • emergencies due to unforeseeable events
  • contracts that - for technical reasons or because of exclusive rights - can only be carried out by one particular company
  • contracts that by law are excluded from public procurement (acquisition/rental of existing buildings, employment contracts, programme material for broadcasting, etc.)

Thresholds triggering EU‑wide rules

 The amounts below do not include VAT

Central government authorities

≥ EUR 135 000

supplies contracts (for defence only those listed in Annex III of Directive 2014/24)

≥ EUR 209 000

supplies contracts for defence products not listed in Annex III of Directive 2014/24

≥ EUR 418 000 supplies and services contracts for water, energy, transport and postal services

≥ EUR 5 225 000

all works contracts

 

Other public authorities

≥ EUR 209 000

all supplies and services contracts

≥ EUR 418 000 supplies and services contracts for water, energy, transport and postal services

≥ EUR 5 225 000

all works contracts

For EU countries that do not use the euro, the following thresholds apply, in local currencies.

Public procurement rules

Award criteria

Public authorities may use different criteria when evaluating tenders, such as the lowest price offered. In this case, each applicant should be informed of the different weighting given to the different criteria (i.e. price, technical characteristics and environmental aspects).

Publication

Certain notices must be published for any public tender exceeding the thresholds that trigger the EU-wide rules:

  • contract notice or notice of a design contest: the public authority may publish this notice nationally but should also send it to the EU Publications Office. The notice is published in full in one official language of the EU and a summary is translated into other languages
  • notice of the contract award announcing the results of the public tender

Public authorities may choose to publish other information notices, such as the prior information notice for a possible upcoming tender. When a tender is published following a prior information notice, the time limit to submit and receive tenders can be reduced. Another way of reducing the time limit is to publish the tender electronically.

A list of notices can be found in the buyers' corner on the European portal for public procurement (SIMAP).

 

Transparency

Public authorities may only begin evaluating tenders after the deadline for submission has expired. If you have submitted a tender, you have the right to be informed as soon as possible whether or not you have won the contract. If you have not been selected, you are entitled to a detailed explanation of why your tender was rejected. The public authority must observe strict confidentiality regarding the exchange and storage of your data.

Technical specifications

Technical specifications define the characteristics of the service, supply or works that the public authority intends to buy. They may include aspects of environmental performance, design, safety, quality assurance or conformity assessment. For public works contracts they may also include tests, inspection and construction techniques.

Types of public procurement procedure

Open procedure

In an open procedure any business may submit a tender. The minimum time limit for submission of tenders is 35 days from the publication date of the contract notice. If a prior information notice was published, this time limit can be reduced to 15 days.

Restricted procedure

Any business may ask to participate in a restricted procedure, but only those who are pre-selected will be invited to submit a tender. The time limit to request participation is 37 days from the publication of the contract notice. The public authority then selects at least 5 candidates with the required capabilities, who then have 40 days to submit a tender from the date when the invitation was sent. This time limit can be reduced to 36 days, if a prior information notice has been published.

In urgent cases the public authority may set a time limit of 15 days to receive participation requests  (if the notice is sent electronically, this can be reduced to 10 days) and 10 days for the submission of the tenders.

Negotiated procedure

In a negotiated procedure the public authority invites at least 3 businesses with whom it will negotiate the terms of the contract.

Most contracting authorities can use this procedure only in a limited number of cases, for example for supplies intended exclusively for research or testing purposes. The contracting authorities in sectors such as water, energy, transport or postal services may use it as a standard procedure.

The time limit to receive requests to participate is 37 days from the publication of the contract notice. This can be reduced to 15 days in extremely urgent cases, or 10 days if the notice is sent electronically.

Under certain conditions this procedure can be chosen even without publication of a contract notice, for example:

  • where no tenders were submitted in an open or restricted procedure
  • in extremely urgent cases
  • in cases where, for technical reasons, the contract can be carried out only by a single business

Competitive dialogue

This procedure is often used for complex contracts such as large infrastructure projects where the public authority cannot define the technical specifications at the start. After the publication of the contract notice, interested businesses have 37 days to request participation. The public authority must invite at least 3 candidates to a dialogue in which the final technical, legal and economic aspects are defined. After this dialogue candidates submit their final tenders.

Competitive dialogue cannot be used by public services providers in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors.

 

Electronic auctions

Public authorities can also award contracts by electronic auction. Before starting the auction, they must make a full initial evaluation of the tenders and only allow the admissible ones to take part. The invitation to participate in the auction must state the date and time of the auction and the number of bidding rounds. It should also set out the formula that will determine the automatic rankings. In each bidding round you must be able to see your ranking compared to your competitors, without knowing their identity.

Electronic auctions cannot be used for certain types of contract, such as the design of works (for example architectural plans for a building).

 

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