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CASE study

Successfully challenging a multi-million tender award to a public body in the UK

We were contacted by a large US company.  They had been unsuccessful in a multi-million pound tender to a public body in the UK, despite having held the previous contract in a very successful commercial partnership.

The client, which was an experienced bidder, was concerned because of multiple issues with the tender process including the length of time that it took to complete, a lack of transparent scoring, frequent changes in criteria, a change in the outcome after the initial tender outcome had been released, and an apparent lack of recognition of our client’s market-leading offering. However, our client was naturally reluctant to complain if that would prejudice its ongoing other contracts with related public bodies, and a legal strategy had to be devised to take that into account.

Within 24 hours of instruction we had requested additional documents from the public body to explain their decision-making process, whilst at the same time agreeing to extend the current contract with our client to allow the public body proper time to address our queries and not disrupt the current contract.  We also agreed to confidentiality obligations to allow our client access to otherwise sensitive commercial documents.

This approach secured first an extension to the standstill period, and then an indefinite suspension of the time limit to bring a claim.  After further letters, and liaison with lawyers instructed by the public body, 3 weeks later the tender process was withdrawn in its entirety.

Key in the successful outcome here was acting quickly, asking the right questions, and not raising the commercial temperature.  By agreeing to extend its current contract, this helped maintain our client’s goodwill and its commercial relationship with the public body in the future.

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