Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A very expensive slip of the pen? GC takes hard line in assessment of debriefing letter and awards compensation for loss of opportunity (T-299/11)

In its Judgment of 7 October 2015 in European Dynamics Luxembourg and Others v OHIM, T-299/11, EU:T:2015:757, the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union (GC) has once again revised the conclusion of framework agreements that include a cascade mechanism for the allocation of call-off contracts within the framework (see previous case Evropaïki Dynamiki v EASA, T-297/09, EU:T:2015:184 and comments here).

On this occasion, the GC considered that OHIM infringed the applicable procurement rules and determined that European Dynamics is entitled to compensation for the loss of of an opportunity to be awarded the framework contract as the contractor ranked first in the cascade. Looking at the reasoning of the GC can be of interest.

In the Judgment, the GC finds that OHIM incurred in several substantive and formal errors in the evaluation of tenders leading up to the eventually quashed award decision. In my view, some of the substantive claims result from the not very careful drafting of the debriefing letter sent by OHIM to European Dynamics, which is very unfortunate. The point that I consider more troublesome from a practical perspective is as follows.

In the tender documentation, and amongst (very!) many other technical issues, tenderers were informed that part of the evaluation would rely on their project management strategy. As the GC explains (T-299/11, para 6), this was formulated in award criterion 1, according to which
[Award] Criterion 1: based on its methodology and experience, the tenderer must present the tasks and activities he/she would perform in terms of project management. This includes in particular (but not exclusively):
a. Progress control [that is to say checking the progress of the work];
b. Issue management process;
c. Change management process;
d. Escalations;
e. Lessons learnt programme;
f. Communications plan;
g. Deliverable acceptance procedures
(maximum 40 points with a minimum threshold of 20 points);
European Dynamics did not receive the highest score under this criterion. When it requested further details of the evaluation under criterion 1 from OHIM, it received a letter whereby it was explained that "the offers with very good or excellent criterion 1 ... “Identified change management and communication as the two most essential tasks for the success of the project”" (T-299/11, paras 23 and 41).

On this particular point, and in view of this (possibly less than careful) drafting of the debriefing letter, European Dynamics complained that it was not clear "from the tender specifications that the two sub-criteria ‘change management’ and ‘communication’ were, in OHIM’s view, the ‘most essential’. Accordingly, the contracting authority introduced, a posteriori, a new criterion and gave a new weighting to those sub-criteria" (T-299/11, para 42, emphasis added).

The GC upheld this complaint of European Dynamics with the following reasoning:
48 ... the Court finds that the applicants rightly argue that the contracting authority indeed gave to the sub-criteria ‘change management’ and ‘communication’ a more significant weight than the other criteria set out in the first award criterion. The reasons unambiguously set out in OHIM’s letter ... according to which the bids from the other successful tenderers ‘identified change management and communication as the two most essential tasks for the success of the project’, cannot be understood otherwise. It demonstrates that the contracting authority endorsed the approach proposed by the other successful tenderers on the basis of a weighting of those sub-criteria which is not clear from the wording of the first award criterion ... the contracting authority cannot apply a weighting of sub-criteria which it has not previously brought to the tenderers’ attention (see, to that effect, judgment of 24 January 2008 in Lianakis and Others, C-532/06, ECR, EU:C:2008:40, paragraph 38).
49 In that regard, first, it should be noted that the ‘change management’ and ‘communications plan’ comprised only two sub-criteria among a set of seven sub-criteria which were listed at the same level and on a non-exclusive basis under the first award criterion, namely, progress control, issue management process, change management process, escalations, lessons learnt programme, communications plan and deliverable acceptance procedures, and in respect of which the contracting authority intended to award a maximum number of 40 points ... Nor is it apparent from the wording of that criterion or other relevant parts of the tender specifications that the contracting authority intended, where appropriate and for specific undisclosed reasons, to afford a different weight to those sub-criteria for the presentation of the project presented in Work Hypothesis No 1, or even to assign, when evaluating the bids submitted in the light of the first award criterion, higher or lower scores depending on whether those bids focused on either one or the other of those sub-criteria. That is particularly so, in respect of the sub-criteria ‘change management’ and ‘communications plan’, in respect of which it was not stated in the tender specifications that the contracting authority considered that they represented ‘the two most essential tasks for the success of the project’.
50 Second, in accordance with the general explanations, in the tender specifications, of the requirements which have to be fulfilled by the tenderers, those tenderers were invited to present ‘the tasks and activities to be executed to manage and successfully achieve the project presented in Work Hypothesis No 1’ which were set out in Annex 18 to the tender specifications and covered the establishment by OHIM of a ‘project to build an information system’. As a result, the description in the bids submitted of the tasks and the activities related to the various sub-criteria under the first award criterion referred necessarily to that project which was by definition the same for all tenderers.
51 In those circumstances, the phrase ‘identified change management and communication as the two most essential tasks for the success of the project’ can be understood only as comprising an absolute and general value judgment on the particular importance of the sub-criteria ‘change management’ and ‘communications plan’ (‘the most essential’) as part of the project envisaged by OHIM under Work Hypothesis No 1 (‘for the success of the project’), of which the bids of the other successful tenderers would have taken account, and, conversely, as a criticism of the first applicant’s bid for failing to have followed an approach similar to that proposed by those successful tenderers to that end.
52 In that regard, OHIM is not justified in claiming, in essence, that the reasoning referred to above should be understood as a value judgment on the sufficient quality of the bids of the other successful tenderers which was based on the identification of two specific sub-criteria, namely ‘change management’ and ‘communications’, since that judgment is not severable from a specifically abstract and preliminary upgrading of the sub-criteria as compared to the other five sub-criteria listed in the first award criterion. Moreover, if only for the reasons set out in paragraphs 48 to 51 above, it does not appear credible that the contracting authority failed to assign a specific number of points from the total of 40 points available to the various sub-criteria which were referred to therein ...
53 Thus, it must be concluded that the negative comparative judgment made by the contracting authority on the first applicant’s bid on that point has no support in the wording of the first award criterion. In particular, the weighting underlying that judgment did not appear to be sufficiently clear, precise and unequivocal from that criterion to enable all reasonably well-informed and normally diligent tenderers to understand their precise scope and to interpret them in the same manner. By applying, contrary to the requirements arising from the case-law ... a weighting of the various sub-criteria within that award criterion which was not provided for by the tender specifications or communicated in advance to the tenderers, OHIM therefore breached, to the detriment of the applicants, the principles of equal opportunities and transparency (T-299/11, paras 48-53, emphasis added).
Technically, the GC's argument is rather solid and, at least at a conceptual level, not much can be criticised. However, given its strong reliance on the specific wording of the letter and arguments concerning implicit underlying sub-criteria and their presumed weightings, it does not seem very persuasive because a more careful and nuanced drafting of the debriefing letter would have completely changed the assessment. 

Indeed, a worrying potential implication of the European Dynamics v OHIM Judgment is that it creates a very powerful incentive for contracting authorities to be disingenuous in their debriefing letters and, where several sub-criteria are listed in the tender documentation, to include references to all of them in the qualitative explanations of the superiority of the tenders chosen for award. 

Such 'holistic' approach to debriefing letter drafting would reduce the quality of the information disclosed--both for the tenderer (who is in any case probably not really seeking to understand the actual superiority of competing bids, but simply a way to litigate) and  also for the reviewing court (which will be receiving more general statements).

As an example, under the circumstances of the case, a debriefing letter with a statement such as ''the offers with very good or excellent criterion 1 ... [struck an appropriate balance between competing implementation needs and provided realistic strategies regarding] most essential tasks for the success of the project [including in particular (but not exclusively): progress control; issue management; change management; escalations; lessons learnt programme; communications plan; and deliverable acceptance procedures]”, would probably have sufficed to nullify European Dynamics' claim and, in my view, would not necessarily infringe the duty to provide reasons as it relates to qualitative technical assessments were technical discretion is rather wide (unless a disproportionately high burden of motivation was imposed, which cannot be completely discarded in view of previous decisions of the GC). In any case, this is just a rough and fast drafting and more considerate wording would probably strike a better balance between provision of reasons and avoidance of litigation.

However, such a debriefing letter would not be as good as the one provided by OHIM in the case at hand, where it naively (?) indicated the actual reasons it had considered to provide better quality management strategies, as it tried to explain to an unimpressed GC (para 52 above)--or, more simply, did not put a great deal of thought on the specific wording of the contentious paragraph of the debriefing letter, which it merely intended to provide qualitative feedback of a general nature. Thus, the European Dynamics v OHIM Judgment puts even more pressure on contracting authorities to be extremely careful in their debriefing (see here and here) and makes this task a nightmarish phase of the procurement process.

Given that such situations carry significant financial consequences (in this case, of an uncertain magnitude because the GC ordered OHIM and European Dynamics to agree between themselves the proper amount of compensation; see paras 149-157), this is an area of procurement practice where contracting authorities would be well advised to start investing more resources. 

At the same time, it is necessary to promote a change of mentality in courts and review bodies dealing with this type of cases, as decisions such as the GC Judgment in European Dynamics v OHIM clearly establish strong financial incentives to litigate and the position of the contracting authorities dealing with complex technical issues requiring qualitative/subjective assessments may be excessively weakened by taking such a hard line in the assessment of debriefing documentation.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

CJEU reiterates case law on mutual recognition of certificates and free movement of goods (C-354/14)

In its Judgment in Capoda Import-Export, C-354/14, EU:C:2015:658, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJUE) has reiterated its case law on the mutual recognition of certificates for the purposes of free movement of goods within the internal market. 

In a timid Judgment, probably due to the limited amount of information made available by the referring court, the CJEU has reiterated the parameters under which Member States are obliged to allow the free circulation of goods legally produced or marketed in other EU countries.

In the case at hand, a Romanian dealer of car spare parts was fined for selling goods that had not been subjected to homologation in Romania. The dealer relied instead on a certificate issued by a German distributor of those goods. Romanian authorities did not consider such certificate sufficient and they insisted in either a manufacturer certificate or full homologation in Romania. Capoda challenged their decision on the basis of EU free movement rules.

The case is legally complicated because the relevant EU regime for mutual recognition of car spare parts has not (yet) been properly developed (see Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 September 2007 establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles and, particularly, Annex XIII), which requires to assess the issue of recognition of the distributor certificate under the general rules on free movement of goods (paras 34-38).

Succinctly, the CJEU stressed that 
39 ... it is settled case-law that all measures of a Member State which are capable of hindering, directly or indirectly, actually or potentially, trade within the European Union must be considered to be measures having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions within the meaning of Article 34 TFEU (see, inter alia, judgments in Dassonville, 8/74, EU:C:1974:82, paragraph 5, and in Juvelta, C-481/12, EU:C:2014:11, paragraph 16).
40 It follows, in particular, that, even in the absence of harmonising European Union measures, products lawfully produced and marketed in a Member State must be able to be marketed in another Member State without being subject to additional controls. In order to be justified, national legislation imposing such controls must be covered by one of the exceptions provided for in Article 36 TFEU or one of the overriding requirements recognised by the case-law of the Court and, in either case, must be appropriate for securing the attainment of that objective and not go beyond what is necessary in order to attain it (see judgments in ATRAL, C-14/02, EU:C:2003:265, paragraph 65, and Commission v Portugal, C-432/03, EU:C:2005:669, paragraph 42).
41 It is apparent from the file sent to the Court that the legislation at issue in the main proceedings imposes the application of an approval or homologation procedure to the products at issue in those proceedings, which is liable to constitute a measure having equivalent effect for the purpose of Article 34 TFEU unless that legislation also lays down exceptions to those procedures so as to ensure that products lawfully produced and marketed in other Member States are exempted.
42 However, it would also appear from that file that Article 1(8) of Government Decree No 80/2000 lays down such exceptions [which would cover to original products or to original spare parts, and would trigger the presumption that unless the contrary is proven, that the products are original if the part manufacturer certifies that the products match the quality of the components used for the assembly of the vehicle in question and have been manufactured in accordance with the specifications and production standards of the vehicle manufacturer]; it is for the referring court to verify whether that is the case.
43 If that should prove not to be the case, it would then be for the competent national authorities to show that that barrier to trade can be justified, in view of the products liable to be affected, by the objectives of protection of road safety and protection of the environment, which, according to the case-law, constitute overriding reasons in the public interest capable of justifying a measure having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions and that it is not only necessary, but proportionate in relation to such objectives (see, inter alia, judgment in Commission v Belgium, C-150/11, EU:C:2012:539, paragraphs 54 and 55).
44 As to whether EU law precludes the refusal to consider documents such as those adduced by Capoda [documents issued by distributors and not by the manufacturers] as being sufficient to demonstrate that parts, such as those at issue in the main proceedings, have already been approved or homologated or that they are original parts or spare parts of matching quality, for the purpose of national law, which are exempted, on that basis, from the procedure of approval or homologation by the RAR, it must be noted that it is for the Member States, in the absence of any European Union rules governing the matter, to determine the evidence which may be adduced in that respect, subject to the principles of equivalence and of effectiveness.
45 Subject to that proviso, EU law therefore does not preclude a rule that only certificates issued by the manufacturer and not by the distributor are capable, in principle, of establishing that the parts in question have already been approved or homologated or constitute original parts or spare parts of matching quality, for the purpose of national law. It should, moreover, be pointed out that Article 3(26) of Directive 2007/46, which defines the concept of ‘original parts or equipment’ for the purpose of that directive, provides that it is presumed, unless the contrary is proven, that parts constitute original parts if the manufacturer certifies them as being so (C-354/14, paras 39-45, emphasis added).
This leaves us with the uncertainty of knowing whether Romanian courts must equate the certificate from the distributor to that of the manufacturer, or whether a chain of certificates could be acceptable. However, in general terms, the reminder of the applicable rules and requirements under Arts 34 and 36 TFEU is a good refresher.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Strange question about obligation to refer issues for preliminary ruling to CJEU under Art 267 TFEU (C-452/14)

In its Judgment in Doc Generici, C-452/14, EU:C:2015:644, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) was requested to interpret certain provisions of the EU framework for the evaluation of medicinal products by the Italian Consiglio di Stato. Beyond the technical details of the case concerning medicinal product evaluation, I find the Doc Generici case interesting because it presents a very strange question concerning the obligation to refer issues for preliminary ruling to CJEU under Art 267 TFEU.

Presented with contradictory interpretations of the relevant EU rules on medicinal product evaluation, the Consiglio di Stato decided to stay proceedings and to refer some questions to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling (C-452/14, para 27). This would seem to accord to the ordinary working of Art 267 TFEU, according to which second paragraph "any court or tribunal of a Member State [confronted with an issue regarding the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union] may, if it considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment, request the [CJEU] to give a ruling thereon." 

This clause in Art 267.II TFEU is generally understood as an enabling mechanism and, as far as I am aware, there is no controversy about the possibility for domestic courts to avail themselves of the preliminary ruling mechanism--which is, in any case, subjected to a check by the CJEU, which can reject the reference on several grounds (including the fact that such interpretation is already available to the referring court by means of previous case law of the CJEU). Thus, nothing out of the ordinary seemed to take place in Doc Generici and the referral by Consiglio di Stato could hardly be interpreted as a procedural anomaly.

However, the Consiglio di Stato does not seem worried about whether it is allowed to refer the questions for preliminary ruling, but about whether it is obliged to do so. In that regard, in Doc Generici, the Consiglio di Stato asked the CJEU whether '[i]n the circumstances in the present proceedings, may or must, as held by this court [ie the Consiglio di Stato itself], the question be referred to the Court of Justice?'.

In my view, given the Consiglio di Stato's willingness to refer the questions on the substantive EU law provisions for interpretation, the further question whether it could or had to do so seems quite superficial and legally irrelevant. The controversy about the obligation to refer questions generally arises when the would-be referring court does not intend to ask the CJEU to provide a preliminary ruling, in which case the extent to which the clause in Art 267.III TFEU forces it to do so can be controversial.

Under Art 267.III TFEU, "[w]here any such question is raised in a case pending before a court or tribunal of a Member State against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law, that court or tribunal shall bring the matter before the Court" (emphasis added). This has given raise to a significant body of case law, including the relatively recent developments as to the liability in which the Member State incurs when its highest courts fail to comply with Art 267.III TFEU. In any case, though, as mentioned, this is only controversial when there is no referral.

In Doc Generici, the question of the Consiglio di Stato on whether it was obliged to refer the questions for interpretation under Art 267.III TFEU, or whether it was simply doing so out of a discretionary measure under Art 267.II TFEU, seems to respond to some argument of the parties in the case at hand (which domestic law implications exceed my imagination), but it is irrelevant from the perspective of EU law. 

In fact, the answer given by the CJEU in paras 42-45 could not be more inane, as it simply reiterates the existing doctrine that 
In accordance with the third paragraph of Article 267 TFEU, a court or tribunal against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law is required, where a question of EU law is raised before it, to comply with its obligation to bring the matter before the Court of Justice, unless it has established that the question raised is irrelevant or that the provision of EU law in question has already been interpreted by the Court or that the correct application of EU law is so obvious as to leave no scope for any reasonable doubt (see, inter alia, judgments in Cilfit and Others, 283/81, EU:C:1982:335, paragraph 21, and Boxus and Others, C-128/09 to C-131/09, C-134/09 and C-135/09, EU:C:2011:667, paragraph 31) (C-452/14, para 43).
After that reminder, the CJEU simply proceeds to stress that the Consiglio di Stato was right in considering itself obliged to refer the question because
it is clear from the explanations provided by the Consiglio di Stato that it considers that it is obliged to make a reference to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. Indeed, it is of the view that the dispute in the main proceedings raises a question of interpretation of EU law which is relevant and novel and the answer to which is not so clear as to leave no scope for any reasonable doubt as to the solution (C-452/14, para 44, emphasis added).
However, this is quite empty or circular reasoning, not least because the circumstances of the case the CJEU refers to are 'internal' to the decision of the Consiglio di Stato--ie the referring court is the one that assesses whether the question is useful and is not covered by the doctrine of acte claire. Under EU law, the CJEU would only second-guess such a judgment of a would-be referring court when there is no referral, and only when the non-referring domestic court incurred in a "manifest infringement" of the applicable EU law. 

Thus, in a scenario where the domestic highest court decides to refer, the CJEU is hardly ever going to answer in a way that determines that the referral was not mandatory under 263.III TFEU, even if it eventually decides not to answer the specific questions referred for interpretation. Not least, because even if it was not mandatory, it was in any case possible, so the CJEU need not worry about how the question got to its docket--it need only be concerned when a question that had to be referred is not.

Overall, then, the issue of the obligation or mere possibility for a referral to the CJEU by the Consiglio di Stato in Doc Generici seems the result of an unnecessary domestic imbroglio concerning the effects of such a referral and, in my view, simply serves to strengthen the point that, when in (reasonable) doubt, highest domestic courts must refer questions for preliminary ruling to the CJEU. I am still curious as to the background reasons why the Consiglio di Stato felt the need to justify that it had to refer the issues to the CJEU. If any Italian reader would tell us in the comments, I would remain much obliged.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Some reflections on the working languages of the European Union and its Institutions (à-propos T-124/13 and T-191/13)

In its Judgment of 24 September 2015 in Italy v Commission, joined cases T-124/13 and T-191/13, EU:T:2015:690 (funnily enough, not available in English or German), the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union (GC) ruled that EPSO, the Commission’s recruitment office, is breaking its own rules by forcing applicants to use English, French, or German (see short comment in English here). 

Beyond its implications in the way EU Institutions recruit their staff, which are certainly not minor, the case is very important in at least two other ways: firstly, it is important from a legal-technical perspective because it follows up on the string of case law concerned with language requirements to access employment at the EU institutions started in the CJEU Judgment of 27 November 2012 in Italy v Commission, C-566/10 P, EU:C:2012:752 and severely limits the possibilities to justify those requirements under the framework that the CJEU had created (thus, crying out loud for an appeal of the GC's Judgment by the Commission); and, secondly, the case is relevant from a legal-functional (or policy) perspective because of its broader implications in terms of the tension between the EU's languages policy and the workability of its institutions [for discussion of the language policy element of the tension, see Stefaan van der Jeught's remarks here].

On the first point, from a technical perspective, I find the reasoning of the GC remarkably narrow-minded and disappointing. In the 2012  Italy v Commission CJEU Judgment, a reasonable framework was created by recognising the discretion of the EU Institutions to establish a balance between language requirements linked to the interest of the service (ie avoiding them becoming a sad 21st-century reincarnation of Babel's Tower) and the limitation in the selection of the best candidates should they not command the languages specifically chosen. The general principles of that framework were as follows:
88 ... it is apparent ... that the interest of the service may be a legitimate objective that can be taken into consideration. In particular, [relevant EU law] authorises limitations on the principles of non-discrimination and proportionality. Those interests of the service must however be objectively justified and the required level of knowledge of languages must be proportionate to the genuine needs of the service (see, to that effect, Case 79/74 Küster vParliament [1975] ECR 725, paragraphs 16 and 20, and Case 22/75 Küster v Parliament [1975] ECR 1267, paragraphs 13 and 17).
93. In so far as a legitimate objective of general interest may be relied upon and be shown to be genuine, it should be noted that a difference in treatment on the grounds of language must also observe the principle of proportionality, that is to say, it must be appropriate for attaining the objective pursued and must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve it (see, to that effect, Joined Cases C-453/03, C-11/04, C-12/04 and C-194/04 ABNA and Others [2005] ECR I-10423, paragraph 68).
94 ... the recruitment of officials is to be directed to securing for the institution the services of officials of the highest standard of ability, efficiency and integrity. Since that objective can best be achieved when the candidates are allowed to sit the selection tests in their mother tongue or in the second language of which they think they have the best command, it is, in that regard, for those institutions to weigh the legitimate objective justifying the limitation of the number of languages of the competition against the objective of identifying the most competent candidates.
97 ... it is therefore a matter for the institutions to weigh the legitimate objective justifying the limitation of the number of languages of the competitions against the opportunities for recruited officials of learning, within the institutions, the languages necessary in the interest of the service (C-566/10 P, paras 88, 93-94 and 97, emphasis added).
Given this framework, which the GC recognises in its 2015 Italy v Commission Judgment, the decision it reaches is really surprising because the Commission went out of its way to justify very precisely the reasons why it insisted on candidates commanding one of either English, French or German as a second language (including those whose native tongue was one of them). In paras 74 and ff of its Judgment, the GC details how the Commission justified the discretionary choice to impose those language requirements and, in fact, concludes that 'the contested calls certainly contain a motivation aimed at justifying the requirement that candidates must have a satisfactory knowledge of German, English or French, languages ​​to which their choice of the second language for the selection process is limited. Therefore, its author, EPSO, cannot be found to have breached the obligation to state reasons. The issue of the justification for this motivation is different, and will be discussed separately' (T-124/13 and T-191/13, para 83, own translation from Spanish).

Precisely in that analysis of the justification provided to motivate the imposition of the language requirements is where, in my view, the GC goes astray and engages in a sort of analysis that nobody acquainted with the way in which EU Institutions work could consider realistic or reflective of reality. This is particularly clear in this passage:
110 The [Commission's] claim that the three languages ​​mentioned above "remain the most widely used languages" in view, specifically, of "the practice already firmly established in the EU institutions with regard to the languages ​​used for internal communication" occupies a key position in this reasoning. However, it must be said that this is a vague statement, which is not supported by specific indications. 
111 Indeed, this alleged (sic) practice of the EU institutions with regard to the languages ​​used for internal communication is not explained in any way. In particular, [the Commission] does not specify if it involves parallel use of these languages ​​as languages ​​of internal communication in all services of all the institutions affected by the contested calls or, rather, some services use one of these languages ​​and some another. In the latter case, there is a risk that services which may be interested in candidates who have passed the controversial oppositions do not use either of the three languages ​​mentioned above as the language of internal communication, which would challenge the reasonableness and proportionality of the limitation, to these three languages, of the choice of a second language for the controversial selection process. Indeed, in that case, either some candidates that have passed the selection process will not be contracted, or the services in question will be forced to appoint, in part, candidates who do not speak the language of internal communication, in which case the a question of the meaning and utility of the above limitation may be legitimately raised. 
 112 The Commission has provided some details in his writings in this regard and submitted additional evidence. However, their analysis does not dispel the serious doubts raised by the above statements contained in the contested calls (T-124/13 and T-191/13, paras 110-112, own translation from Spanish and emphasis added).
In my view and based on my experience of interaction with the European Commission, this is a formal analysis with no grounding on reality. In fact, in my experience, the Commission fundamentally works only in English, and I would think that anyone familiar with the working of the Institutions would have a similar experience in views. Thus, the GC seems to have been chasing ghosts and imposed a burden on the Commission to justify that "alleged" language practice despite the fact that it is vox populi

The GC is also very dismissive of all statistics and arguments submitted by the Commission to try to justify that practice (paras 113-144), which in my view exceeds the level of adequate substantive judicial review established in Art 263 TFEU, and concludes 'that the limitation ... to German, English and French of the choice of the second language for the selection process ... is not objectively justified or proportionate to its aim, which, according to the Commission, is to select officials and agents are immediately operational (T-124/13 and T-191/13, para 145, own translation from Spanish).

In my opinion, by engaging in such a tough and dismissive analysis of the reasons provided by EPSO to justify the language requirements it saw fit to ensure the needs of the service, the GC went too far and emptied the analytical framework created by the CJEU in 2012 of any meaning by actually dismissing the important point that it is 'for those institutions to weigh the legitimate objective justifying the limitation of the number of languages of the competition against the objective of identifying the most competent candidates' and 'a matter for the institutions to weigh the legitimate objective justifying the limitation of the number of languages of the competitions against the opportunities for recruited officials of learning, within the institutions, the languages necessary in the interest of the service' (C-566/10 P, paras 94 & 97). Reading the GC's Judgment, it seems clear that the GC has substituted EPSO's discretion with its own, which does not seem to me to be compatible with the CJEU's approach.

Generally then, on the second point of policy, it seems clear that the GC (and the CJEU to a more limited extent, at least for now) is not ready to support the workability of the European Union and its institutions by decoupling issues of language recognition and support under cultural policies from issues of operability and efficiency of the institutional architecture of the EU. Entire books have been dedicated to these issues [eg T.J.M. van Els, 'The European Union, its Institutions and its Languages: Some Language Political Observations(2001) 2(4) Current Issues in Language Planning 311-360], but very limited advances have been attained (other than sporadic highlights, such as the acceptance of languages restrictions for the purposes of the Single European Patent; see here). Thus, the problem remains unsolved and, by the looks of it, it will only grow more and more difficult to sort out... 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Further thoughts on the competition implications of public contract registries: rebuttal to Telles

Some 10 days ago, Dr Pedro Telles and I engaged in another of our procurement tennis games. This time, the topic of contention is the impact of public contract registers on competition. I published a first set of arguments (here) and Pedro replied (here) mainly stressing that I had not paid enough attention to the potential upsides of such registers. 

Pedro advocated some potential sources of economic benefits derived from the use of public contract registers aimed at full transparency of tender and post-award procurement documentation, of which I would pick: 1) reduced opportunities for price arbitrage and 2) more scope for antitrust intervention by competition authorities possessing better data on what is going on in procurement markets. His arguments are well developed and can be seen as attractive. However, on reflection, there are still reasons why they do not necessarily work. In this post, I address these two issues and explain why I am still sceptical that they can result in any actual economic upsides. I am expecting Pedro to follow up with more arguments, which would be certainly welcome.

1) What about the 'single market theory = law of one price' approach?
The discussion on price arbitrage implicitly rests on the economic 'law of one price' whereby, in simple terms, a specific good should be traded at a single price in all locations. However, that 'economic law' rests on a large number of assumptions, which are particularly fit to commodity markets and ill suited to complex contracts for goods, or most definitely for services. 

In fact, even in highly competitive markets for commoditised products, the law of one price does not hold, at least if conceived in strong terms (ie strictly one price for a given good) instead of relaxing it to require a convergence or clustering of prices [for an interesting empirical paper stressing these insights, see K Graddy, 'Testing for Imperfect Competition at the Fulton Fish Market' (1995) 26(1) The RAND Journal of Economics 75-92]. 

Thus, focussing on arbitrage issues for anything other than very homogeneous commodities traded under standard contract clauses can fall foul of the due recognition of the assumptions underlying the 'law of one price'. Pedro acknowledges this: "yes, I am talking about a commodity, but then a lot of public procurement is made around commodities, including oil". On this point, however, I think data does not support his views.

According to the 2011 PwC-London Economics-Ecorys study for the European Commission 'Public procurement in Europe-Cost and effectiveness', commodities and manufactured goods only account for about 10% in value and 14% in number of procurement procedures subjected to the EU rules (see here page 45). Thus, the issue of price arbitrage is certainly not of first magnitude when the effects of public contract registers are assessed from an economic perspective.

(c) Anderson for eQuest
2) What about more intervention by competition authorities based on better (big) data?
On this point, Pedro and I agree partially. It is beyond doubt that, as he puts it, there are "potential upsides of having more data available in terms of cartel fighting. What can be done when reams and reams of contract data are available? You can spot odd behaviours. For example, you can corroborate a whistleblower account and you can then check if certain collusive practice/tactic is happening in other sectors as well." That is why, on my original post, I advocated for "[o]versight entities, such as the audit court or the competition authority, [to] have full access" to public contract registers.

However, as I also suggested (probably not in the clearest terms), in order to enable competition law enforcement on the basis of better data, there is no need for everyone to have (unlimited) access to that data. The only agent that needs access is the competition authority. More importantly, indiscriminate disclosure is not technically necessary, particularly when public contract registries are electronic and can be designed around technical devices giving differentiated access to information to different stakeholders.

This is an important issue. In a different but comparable context, disclosure obligations in the field of securities and financial regulation have been criticised for failing to address their excessive rigidity in certain multi-audience scenarios, where investors and competitors can access the same information and, consequently, firms have conflicting incentives to disclose and not to disclose specific bits of commercially sensitive information [for a very interesting discussion, see S Gilotta, 'Disclosure in Securities Markets and the Firm's Need for Confidentiality: Theoretical Framework and Regulatory Analysis' (2012) 13(1) European Business Organization Law Review 45-88].

In that setting, selective disclosure of sensitive information has been considered the adequate tool to strike a balance of interest between the different stakeholders wanting access to the information, and this is becoming a worldwide standard with a significant volume of emerging best practices [eg Brynn Gilbertson and Daniel Wong, 'Selective disclosure by listed issuers: recent “best practice” developments', Lexology, 9 Sept 2014].

Therefore, by analogy (if nothing else), I still think that 
Generally, what is needed is more granularity in the levels of information that are made accessible to different stakeholders. The current full transparency approach whereby all information is made available to everyone falls very short from the desired balance between transparency and competition goals of public procurement. A system based on enabling or targeted transparency, whereby each stakeholder gets access to the information it needs for a specific purpose, is clearly preferable.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

New Paper (in Spanish) on Agency Theory and Conflicts of Interest in Public Procurement

I have written a paper in Spanish (a rare occurrence) for the special issue on law and economics of the Revista de Economía Industrial, which I have now posted on SSRN as 'La Aplicación de la Teoría de Agencia a la Prevención de Conflictos de Interés en la Contratación Pública bajo la Directiva 2014/24' [Application of Agency Theory to the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in Public Procurement Under Directive 2014/24] (September 22, 2015). Revista de Economía Industrial, número monográfico sobre Análisis Económico del Derecho. Its abstract is as follows:

Law and economics analyses of public procurement have provided important contributions regarding contract design, particularly from the perspective of bidders’ incentives, as well as facilitated the formalisation of studies on collusion and corruption in settings of strict transparency obligations and rigid demand planning requirements. This paper does not focus on any of those facets of economic analysis of public procurement, but rather on the less developed application of agency theory to the activities of the public buyer. Building upon the contributions by Trepte (2004) and Yukins (2010), this paper explores the varied dimensions in which public procurement gives rise to agency problems, as well as some of the solutions to remedy them developed in Directive 2014/24.

El análisis económico del derecho de la contratación pública ha dado lugar a importantes contribuciones relacionadas con el diseño de los contratos desde el punto de vista de los incentivos de los licitadores, así como a avances en la formalización de estudios relacionados con la colusión y la corrupción en escenarios sujetos a estrictas normas de transparencia y a rígidos ejercicios de planificación de la demanda. Este artículo no se fija en ninguna de estas facetas, sino en la menos desarrollada aplicación de la teoría de agencia a las actividades del comprador público. Basándose en las contribuciones de Trepte (2004) y Yukins (2010), el artículo explora las varias dimensiones en que la contratación pública se ve afectada por problemas de agencia, así como algunas de las soluciones que la nueva Directiva 2014/24 ha desarrollado para tratar de remediarlas.

The full paper can be accessed here:

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Why are public contracts registers problematic?

This past week, I had the pleasure and honour of starting my participation in the European Commission Stakeholder Expert Group on Public Procurement (PPEP). The first batch of discussions  revolved, firstly, around the use of the best price quality ratio (BPQR) award criterion and, secondly, around the use of transparency tools such as public contract registers. 

This second topic is of my particular interest, so I have tried to push the discussion a step forward in a document circulated to the PPEP Members. Given the general nature of the discussion document, I thought it could be interesting to post it here. Any comments will be most welcome and will help enrich the views presented to the European Commission in the next meeting. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Centralised Procurement Registers and their Transparency Implications—Discussion Non-Paper for the European Commission Stakeholder Expert Group on Public Procurement ~ Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells[1]

In its efforts to increase the effectiveness of EU public procurement law in practice and to steer Member States towards the mutual exchange and eventual adoption of best practices,[2] the European Commission has identified the emerging trend of creating public contracts registers as an area of increasing interest.[3] Such registers go beyond the well-known electronic portals of information on public contract opportunities, such as TED[4] at EU level or Contracts Finder in the UK,[5] and aim to publish very detailed tender and contractual information, which in some cases include aspects of the competition generated prior to the award of the contract (such as names of the undertakings that submitted tenders) and the actual contractual documents signed by the parties. Such registers exist at least in Portugal,[6] Italy[7] and Slovakia.[8] The European Commission is interested in assessing the benefits and risks that such public contracts registers generate, particularly in terms of transparency of public tendering and the subsequent management of public contracts. This discussion non-paper aims to assess such benefits and risks and to sketch some proposals for risk mitigation measures.

Why are public contract registries created?
Traditional registers of contract opportunities are fundamentally based on transaction cost theory insights and aim to reduce the search costs that undertakings face in trying to identify opportunities to supply the public sector. By making the information readily available, contracting authorities expect to receive expressions of interest and/or offers from a larger number of undertakings, thus increasing competition for public contracts and reducing the information asymmetries that affect contracting authorities themselves. In the end, that sort of pre-award transparency mechanism aims at enabling the contracting authority to benefit from competition. It also creates the additional benefit of avoiding favouritism and corrupt practices in the selection of public suppliers and, in the context of the EU’s internal market, supports the anti-discrimination agenda embedded in the basic fundamental freedoms of movement of goods, services and capital through pan-European advertisement.

The justification for ‘advanced’ public contracts registers that include post-award transparency mechanisms is more complex and, in short, this type of registers is created for a number of reasons that mainly include objectives at two different levels:

1. At a general level, these registers aim at
  • Reacting to perceived shortcomings in public governance, particularly in the aftermath of corruption scandals, or as part of efforts to strengthen public administration processes
  • Complementing ‘traditional’ public audit and oversight mechanisms through enhanced access to information by stakeholders and civil society organisations, as well as enabling more intense scrutiny by the press, in the hope of ‘private-led’ oversight and audit. The possibilities that digitisation and big data create in this area of public governance are a significant driver or steer to the development of these registers.[9]
2. At a specific level, these registers aim at
  • Facilitating contract management oversight and creating an additional layer of public exposure of contract-related decision-making, thus expanding the scope of procurement transparency beyond the award phase
  • Facilitating private enforcement of public procurement rules by allowing interested parties to prompt administrative and/or judicial review of specific procurement decisions,[10] both pre-award and during the execution phase
Generally, then, these additional transparency mechanisms are not intended to foster competition. Their main goal and justification is to preserve the integrity of public contract administration and to increase the robustness of anticorruption tools by facilitating social or private oversight. They significantly increase the levels of transparency already achieved through pre-award disclosure mechanisms and, in simple terms, they aim at creating full transparency of public procurement and public contract management, basically for the purposes of legitimising public expenditure by means of increased (expected) accountability as a result of such full transparency and tougher oversight.

Why are public contract registries problematic from a competition perspective?
Public contract registries are problematic precisely due to the levels of transparency they create. Economic theory has conclusively demonstrated that the levels of transparency created by public procurement rules and practices (such as these registers) facilitate collusion and anticompetitive behaviour between undertakings, thus eroding (and potentially negating) the benefits contracting authorities can obtain from organising tenders for public contracts.[11] This is an uncontroversial finding that led the OECD to stress that “[t]he formal rules governing public procurement can make communication among rivals easier, promoting collusion among bidders … procurement regulations may facilitate collusive arrangements”.[12]

The specific reasons why and conditions under which increased transparency facilitates collusion are beyond the scope of this discussion non-paper, but suffice it to stress here that transparency will be particularly pernicious when it allows undertakings that are already colluding to identify the detailed conditions under which they did participate in a particular bid or refrained from participating (by, for instance, disclosing the names of participating tenderers and the specific conditions of the winning tender).[13] Moreover, conditions of full transparency are not only problematic in relation to already existing cartels, but they are also troublesome regarding the creation of new cartels because increased transparency alters the incentives to participate in bid rigging arrangements.[14]

Furthermore, full transparency can also damage competition in industries with strong dominant undertakings. In those settings, transparency may not lead to cartelisation, but it can facilitate exclusionary strategies by the dominant undertaking by allowing them to focus exclusionary practices (such as predatory pricing) in markets or segments of the market where it detects entry by new rivals or innovative tenderers. Even in cases where collusion or price competition may not be a prime issue, full transparency can create qualitative distortions of competition, such as technical levelling[15] or reduced participation due to undertakings’ interest in protecting business secrets (as discussed below). Overall, it is beyond doubt that excessive transparency in public procurement is self-defeating because it erodes or nullifies any benefits derived from the organisation of public tenders.

All these economic insights led the OECD to adopt a formal Recommendation to prompt its members to “assess the various features of their public procurement laws and practices and their impact on the likelihood of collusion between bidders. Members should strive for public procurement tenders at all levels of government that are designed to promote more effective competition and to reduce the risk of bid rigging while ensuring overall value for money”.[16] Thus the impact of increased procurement transparency on the likelihood of collusion and cartelisation in procurement markets, as well as the other potential negative impacts on the intensity or quality of competition, requires closer scrutiny and the competition implications of excessive transparency cannot simply be overseen in the name of anti-corruption goals.[17] Not least, because a large number of cartels discovered and prosecuted by competition authorities involve public procurement markets[18]—which demonstrates that the economic impact of such collusion-facilitative implications of full transparency is not trivial. 

Estimating the economic impact of cartels in public procurement is a difficult task.[19] However, generally accepted estimates always show that the negative economic effect is by no means negligible and that anticompetitive overcharges can easily reach 20% of contract value.[20] Thus, particularly in view of the Europe 2020 goal to ensure ‘the most efficient use of public funds’,[21] issues of excessive transparency in public procurement markets need to be addressed so as to avoid losses of efficiency derived from the abnormal operation of market forces due to procurement rules and practices.

This does not mean that transparency needs to be completely abandoned in the public procurement setting, but a more nuanced approach that accommodates competition concerns is necessary. As has been rightly stressed, “transparency measures should at least be limited to those needed in order to enhance competition and ensure integrity, rather than being promoted as a matter of principle. Transparency should be perceived as a means to an end, rather than a goal in itself”.[22] This is in line with the OECD’s specific recommendation that “[w]hen publishing the results of a tender, [contracting authorities] carefully consider which information is published and avoid disclosing competitively sensitive information as this can facilitate the formation of bid-rigging schemes, going forward”.[23] The final section of this non-paper presents some normative recommendations to that purpose, which highlight much needed restrictions to the promotion of full transparency as a matter of principle.

Are there other reasons why procurement registries can be problematic?
As briefly mentioned above, another source of possible negative impacts derived from public contract registries is their potential chilling effect on undertakings keen to protect their business secrets. It is often stressed that tenders contain sensitive information and that disclosure of that information can damage the commercial interests of bidders if those secrets are at risk of being disclosed through the public contracts registries or otherwise.[24] Thus, undertakings can either decide not to participate in particularly sensitive tenders, or submit offers and documentation in such a way as to keep their secrets concealed, hence diminishing their quality or increasing the information cost/asymmetry that the contracting authority needs to overcome in their assessment. Either way, these business secret protective strategies reduce the intensity and quality of the competition. Moreover, transparency of certain elements of human resources-related information (particularly in view of the increasing importance of work teams in the area of services procurement) not only can trigger data protection concerns,[25] but also facilitate unfair business practices such as the poaching of key employees.

However, despite the clear existence of business secret and commercial interest justifications for the preservation of certain levels of secrecy, there is a tendency to minimise the relevance of these issues by creating a private interest-public interest dichotomy and stressing the relevance of public (anti-corruption) goals. This is problematic. What is often overlooked is that contracting authorities have themselves a commercial interest in keeping business secrets protected. That interest derives immediately from their need to minimise the abovementioned chilling effect (ie not crowding out or scaring away undertakings wary of excessive disclosure), so that competition remains as strong as possible. And such interest in avoiding excessive disclosure also derives, in the mid to long-term, from the need not to thwart innovation by means of technical levelling or de facto standard setting.

These issues were recently well put in the context of UK litigation concerning a freedom of information request that the contracting authority rejected on the basis of relevant business secret and commercial interest protection. As clarified by the First Tier Tribunal,
There is a public interest in maintaining an efficient competitive market for leisure management systems. If the commercial secrets of one market entity were revealed, its competitive position would be eroded and the whole market would be less competitive. As the Court of Appeal put it in Veolia ES Nottinghamshire Ltd v Nottinghamshire County Council and others [2012] P.T.S.R. 185 at [111], a company’s confidential information is often “the life blood of an enterprise”. The [Information Commissioner’s Office] argued that this is particularly so in an industry such as the provision of leisure management systems because such systems are a complex amalgam of technologies, customer support networks, and user interfaces, which involve elements individual to particular companies. Those individual elements drive competition to the benefit of public authorities and consumers.[26]
Thus, the protection of business secrets and commercial interests should not be seen as a limitation of the public (anti-corruption) interest in the benefit of private interests, but as a balancing exercise between two competing public interest goals: efficiency and integrity of procurement. Once this realignment of goals is understood, restrictions of public procurement transparency based on competition considerations should receive support also from a public governance perspective.

A final consideration in terms of potential negative impacts of public contract registries derives from the way they are financed. At least in the case of Italy, economic operators are required to pay fees towards the funding of the relevant public contract registry when they first participate in any given tender. This becomes a financial burden linked to procurement participation that can have clear chilling effects, particularly for SMEs with limited financial resources. It is widely accepted that financial barriers to participation should be suppressed as a matter of best practice[27]—and, in certain occasions, as a matter of compliance with internal market regulation as well. Thus, the creation of any sort of public contract registry which funding requires upfront payments from interested undertakings should not be favoured.

How could competition and confidentiality concerns be embedded in the design of public contract registries, so that their risks are minimised?

The discussion above supports a nuanced approach to the level of transparency actually created by public contract registries, which needs to fall short of the full transparency paradigm in which they have been conceived and started to be implemented. As a functional criterion, only the information that is necessary to ensure proper oversight and the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures should be disclosed, whereas the information that can be most damaging for competition should be withheld. 

Generally, what is needed is more granularity in the levels of information that are made accessible to different stakeholders. The current full transparency approach whereby all information is made available to everyone falls very short from the desired balance between transparency and competition goals of public procurement. A system based on enabling or targeted transparency, whereby each stakeholder gets access to the information it needs for a specific purpose, is clearly preferable.

In more specific terms, the following normative recommendations are subjected to further discussion. They are by no means exhaustive and simply aim to specify the sort of nuanced approach to disclosure of public procurement information that is hereby advocated.

  • Public contract registers should not be fully available to the public. Access to the full registry should be restricted to public sector officials under a strong duty of confidentiality protected by appropriate sanctions in cases of illegitimate disclosure.
  • Even within the public sector, access to the full register should be made available on a need to know basis. Oversight entities, such as the audit court or the competition authority, should have full access. However, other entities or specific civil servants should only access the information they require to carry out their functions.
  • Limited versions of the public contract registry that are made accessible to the public should aggregate information by contracting authority and avoid disclosing any particulars that could be traced back to specific tenders or specific undertakings.
  • Representative institutions, such as third sector organisations, or academics should have the opportunity of seeking access to the full registry on a case by case basis where they can justify a legitimate or research-related interest. In case of access, ethical approval shall be obtained, anonymization of data attempted, and specific confidentiality requirements duly imposed.
  • Delayed access to the full public registry could also be allowed for, provided there are sufficient safeguards to ensure that historic information does not remain relevant for the purposes of protecting market competition, business secrets and commercial interests.
  • Tenderers should have access to their own records, even if they are not publicly-available, so as to enable them to check their accuracy. This is particularly relevant if public contract registries are used for the purposes of assessing past performance under the new rules.
  • Big data should be published on an anonymised basis, so that general trends can be analysed without enabling ‘reverse engineering’ of information that can be traced to specific bidders.
  • The entity in charge of the public contracts registry should regularly publish aggregated statistics by type of procurement procedure, object of contract, or any other items deemed relevant for the purposes of public accountability of public buyers (such as percentages of expenditure in green procurement, etc).
  • The entity in charge of the public contracts registry should develop a system of red flag indicators and monitor them with a view to reporting instances of potential collusion to the relevant competition authority.

[1] Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School and Member of the European Commission Stakeholder Expert Group on Public Procurement (E02807) (2015-2018). This paper has been prepared for discussion within the Expert Group, following an initial exchange of ideas in the meeting held in Brussels on 14 September 2015. The views presented on this paper are my own and in no way bind any of the abovementioned institutions. Comments and suggestions welcome:
[2] For discussion of this regulatory and governance approach in the area of public procurement, see C Harlow and R Rawlings, Process and Procedure in EU Administration (Oxford, Hart, 2014) 142-169.
[3] Point 2 ‘’contract registers to enhance full transparency of data related to public procurement”, included in the agenda for the Stakeholder Expert Group on Public Procurement of 14 September 2015, available at
[4] Tenders Electronic Daily (TED)
[6] Base: Contratos Publicos Online,
[7] Banca Dati Nazionale dei Contratti pubblici,
[8] A case study based on the Slovakian Online Central Register of Contracts is available at
[9] See eg the efforts of the Sunlight Foundation by means of its Procurement Open Data Guidelines See also the Open Contracting Data Standard project
[10] For discussion, see A Sanchez-Graells, “The Difficult Balance between Transparency and Competition in Public Procurement: Some Recent Trends in the Case Law of the European Courts and a Look at the New Directives” (November 2013),
[11] A Sanchez-Graells, Public Procurement and the EU Competition Rules, 2nd edn (Oxford, Hart, 2015) 73-75.
[12] OECD, Public Procurement: Role of Competition Authorities (2007) 7, available at For discussion, see A Sanchez-Graells, “Prevention and Deterrence of Bid Rigging: A Look from the New EU Directive on Public Procurement”, in G Racca & C Yukins (eds), Integrity and Efficiency in Sustainable Public Contracts (Brussels, Bruylant, 2014) 171-198, available at
[13] For discussion, see A Heimler, “Cartels in Public Procurement” (2012) 8(4) Journal of Competition Law & Economics 849-862 and SE Weishaar, Cartels, Competition and Public Procurement. Law and Economics Approaches to Bid Rigging (Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2013) 28-36.
[14] P Gugler, “Transparency and Competition Policy in an Imperfectly Competitive World”, in J Forssbaeck & L Oxelheim (eds), Oxford Handbook of Economic and Institutional Transparency (Oxford, OUP, 2014) 144, 150.
[15] Sanchez-Graells, Public Procurement and the EU Competition Rules (n 11) 76.
[16] OECD, Recommendation on Fighting Bid Rigging in Public Procurement (2012), available at For discussion, see A Sanchez-Graells, “Public Procurement and Competition: Some Challenges Arising from Recent Developments in EU Public Procurement Law”, in C Bovis (ed), Research Handbook on European Public Procurement (Cheltenham, Elgar, 2016). Available at
[17] For discussion, see RD Anderson, WE Kovacic and AC Muller, ‘Ensuring integrity and competition in public procurement markets: a dual challenge for good governance’ in S Arrowsmith & RD Anderson (eds), The WTO Regime on Government Procurement: Challenge and Reform (CUP, 2011) 681-718.
[18] This is true in all jurisdictions. See KL Haberbush, “Limiting the Government’s Exposure to Bid Rigging Schemes: A Critical Look at the Sealed Bidding Regime” (2000–2001) 30 Public Contract Law Journal 97, 98; and RD Anderson & WE Kovacic, ‘Competition Policy and International Trade Liberalisation: Essential Complements to Ensure Good Performance in Public Procurement Markets’ (2009) 18 Public Procurement Law Review 67. See also A Sanchez-Graells, “Public Procurement: A 2014 Updated Overview of EU and National Case Law” (2014). e-Competitions: National Competition Laws Bulletin, No. 40647. Available at
[19] See the debate around the proposal to create a rebuttable presumption of overcharge at 20% in the Directive on actions for breach of the EU antitrust rules; Commission Staff Working Document SWD(2013) 203 final para 88, However, given the controversy on specific figures, the final version of Art 17 of Directive 2014/104 includes an unquantified presumption. Directive 2014/104/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 November 2014 on certain rules governing actions for damages under national law for infringements of the competition law provisions of the Member States and of the European Union [2014] OJ L 349/1.
[20] For a very modest estimation of cartel overcharges in the environment of 17%, see M Boyer & R Kotchoni, “How Much Do Cartels Overcharge?” (2014) Toulouse School of Economics Working Paper TSE‐462, available at
[21] Communication from the Commission of 3 March 2010, Europe 2020 A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, COM (2010) 2020 final para 4.3, p. 24, available at For discussion, see A Sanchez-Graells, “Truly competitive public procurement as a Europe 2020 lever: what role for the principle of competition in moderating horizontal policies?” (2016) 22(2) European Public Law Journal, available at
[22] RD Anderson and AC Muller, “Promoting Competition and Deterring Corruption in Public Procurement markets: Synergies with Trade Liberalization”, draft paper to be published in the "E15 Expert Group on Competition Policy" (a joint initiative/facility of the World Economic Forum and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development) 13 (on file with author).
[23] OECD, Guidelines for Fighting Bid Rigging in Public Procurement (2009) 7, available at
[24] For discussion, see C Ginter, N Parrest & M-A Simovart, “Requirement to Protect Business Secrets and Disclose Procurement Contracts under Procurement Law” (2013) IX Juridica 658-665.
[25] These are beyond the scope of this discussion non-paper.
[26] Sally Ballan v Information Commissioner EA/2015/0021 (28 July 2015) para [25(c)], available at,%20Sally%20EA.2015.0021%20%2828.07.15%29.pdf.
[27] Sanchez-Graells, Public Procurement and the EU Competition Rules (n 11) 280-281.