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The Public Contracts Regulations 2015

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This is the original version (as it was originally made).

Rules applicable to communication
This section has no associated Explanatory Memorandum
General principles about the use of electronic and non-electronic means of communication

22.—(1) Subject to paragraphs (3), (5), (8) and (10), all communication and information exchange under this Part, including electronic submission, shall be performed using electronic means of communication in accordance with the requirements of this regulation.

(2) Subject to paragraph (13), the tools and devices to be used for communicating by electronic means, and their technical characteristics, shall be non-discriminatory, generally available and interoperable with the information and communication technology products in general use and shall not restrict economic operators’ access to the procurement procedure.

(3) Contracting authorities are not obliged to require electronic means of communication in the submission process in the following situations:—

(a)due to the specialised nature of the procurement, the use of electronic means of communication would require specific tools, devices or file formats that are not generally available or supported by generally available applications;

(b)the applications supporting file formats that are suitable for the description of the tenders use file formats that cannot be handled by any other open or generally available applications or are under a proprietary licensing scheme and cannot be made available for downloading or remote use by the contracting authority;

(c)the use of electronic means of communication would require specialised office equipment that is not generally available to contracting authorities; or

(d)the procurement documents require the submission of physical or scale models which cannot be transmitted using electronic means.

(4) Where, in accordance with paragraph (3), electronic means of communication are not used, communication shall be carried out—

(a)by post or by other suitable carrier, or

(b)by a combination of post or other suitable carrier and electronic means.

(5) Contracting authorities are not obliged to require electronic means of communication in the submission process to the extent that the use of means of communication other than electronic means is necessary either—

(a)because of a breach of security of the electronic means of communication, or

(b)for the protection of information of a particularly sensitive nature requiring such a high level of protection that it cannot be properly ensured by using electronic tools and devices that are either generally available to economic operators or can be made available to them by alternative means of access within the meaning of paragraph (14).

(6) Where contracting authorities require, in accordance with paragraph (3), means of communication other than electronic means in the submission process, they shall indicate in the report referred to in regulation 84(1) the reasons for that requirement.

(7) Where applicable, contracting authorities shall indicate in that report the reasons why use of means of communication other than electronic means has been considered necessary in accordance with paragraph (5).

(8) Oral communication may be used in respect of communications other than those concerning the essential elements of a procurement procedure, provided that the content of the oral communication is documented to a sufficient degree.

(9) For that purpose, the essential elements of a procurement procedure include the procurement documents, requests to participate, confirmations of interest and tenders.

(10) In particular, oral communications with tenderers which could have a substantial impact on the content and assessment of the tenders shall be documented to a sufficient extent and by appropriate means, such as written or audio records or summaries of the main elements of the communication.

(11) In all communication, exchange and storage of information, contracting authorities shall ensure that the integrity of data and the confidentiality of tenders and requests to participate are preserved.

(12) Contracting authorities shall examine the content of tenders and requests to participate only after the time limit set for submitting them has expired.

Use of tools and devices not generally available

(13) Contracting authorities may, where necessary, require the use of tools and devices which are not generally available, provided that the contracting authorities offer suitable alternative means of access.

(14) Contracting authorities shall be deemed to offer suitable alternative means of access where they do any of the following:—

(a)offer unrestricted and full direct access free of charge by electronic means to the tools and devices concerned from the date of publication of the call for competition or from the date when the invitation to confirm interest is sent;

(b)ensure that tenderers having no access to the tools and devices concerned, or no possibility of obtaining them within the relevant time limits, provided that the lack of access is not attributable to the tenderer concerned, may access the procurement procedure through the use of provisional tokens made available free of charge online; or

(c)support an alternative channel for electronic submission of tenders.

(15) For the purposes of paragraph (14)(a)—

(a)“publication of the call for competition” means whichever of the following is relevant (and where both are relevant, the earliest of them):—

(i)its publication in the Official Journal after being sent in accordance with regulation 51;

(ii)its publication on a buyer profile in accordance with regulation 52; and

(b)the text of the call for competition notice or the invitation to confirm interest shall specify the internet address at which the tools and devices are accessible.

Technical etc requirements for tools and devices

(16) Tools and devices for the electronic receipt of tenders, requests to participate and, in design contests, plans and projects, must at least guarantee, through technical means and appropriate procedures, that—

(a)the exact time and date of the receipt of tenders, requests to participate and the submission of plans and projects can be determined precisely;

(b)it may be reasonably ensured that, before the time referred to in paragraph (12), no-one can have access to data transmitted under the requirements in this paragraph;

(c)only authorised persons may set or change the dates for opening data received;

(d)during the different stages of the procurement procedure, access to all data submitted, or to part of such data, must be possible only for authorised persons;

(e)only authorised persons may give access to data transmitted and only after the time referred to in paragraph (12);

(f)data received and opened in accordance with the requirements in sub-paragraphs (a) to (e) must remain accessible only to persons authorised to acquaint themselves with the data;

(g)it must be reasonably ensured that any infringement, or attempted infringement, of the access prohibitions or conditions referred to in sub-paragraphs (b) to (f) are clearly detectable.

(17) In addition to those requirements, the following rules apply to tools and devices for the electronic transmission and receipt of tenders and for the electronic receipt of requests to participate:—

(a)information on specifications for the electronic submission of tenders and requests to participate, including encryption and time-stamping, shall be available to interested parties;

(b)contracting authorities shall, acting in accordance with paragraphs (18) and (19), specify the level of security required for the electronic means of communication in the various stages of the specific procurement procedure, and that level shall be proportionate to the risks attached;

(c)where contracting authorities conclude that the level of risk, assessed in accordance with paragraphs (18) and (19), is such that advanced electronic signatures as defined by Directive 1999/93/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council(1) as amended from time to time are required, contracting authorities shall accept advanced electronic signatures supported by a qualified certificate, taking into account whether the certificate is provided by a certificate services provider which is on a trusted list provided for in Commission Decision 2009/767/EC(2) as amended from time to time, created with or without a secure signature creation device, subject to compliance with the following conditions:—

(i)(aa)the contracting authorities shall establish the required advanced signature format on the basis of formats established in Commission Decision 2011/130/EU(3) as amended from time to time and put in place necessary measures to be able to process these formats technically;

(bb)in case a different format of electronic signature is used, the electronic signature or the electronic document carrier shall include information on existing validation possibilities;

(cc)the validation possibilities shall allow the contracting authority to validate online, free of charge and in a way that is understandable for non-native speakers, the received electronic signature as an advanced electronic signature supported by a qualified certificate;

(ii)where a tender is signed with the support of a qualified certificate that is included on a trusted list, contracting authorities must not apply additional requirements that may hinder the use of those signatures by tenderers.

Security requirements

(18) In deciding the level of security required at each stage of a procurement procedure, and in concluding whether the level of risk is such that advanced electronic signatures are required, contracting authorities shall assess the risks having regard to both the likelihood that particular risks will materialise and the potential adverse consequences if those risks materialise.

(19) In doing so, contracting authorities shall, in particular, have regard to such of the following matters as are relevant:—

(a)the risk to the proper functioning and integrity of the specific procurement process, including risks of breach of this Part;

(b)risks to national security;

(c)the risk of inadvertent or unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, any economic operator’s confidential information;

(d)the risk of inadvertent or unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, information held by the contracting authority including information relating to the specific procurement;

(e)the risk that use of electronic communications could provide opportunity for malicious attacks on the electronic systems of, or data held by, the authority, any economic operator or any other person, including introduction of malware or denial of service attacks;

(f)other material risks relating to the procurement procedure in question;

(g)the need for consistency as between similar procurements performed by the same contracting authority;

(h)the need for proportionality between, on the one hand the expected benefits of any particular security requirements (in terms of eliminating or reducing any of the risks referred to in sub-paragraphs (a) to (g)), and on the other hand the costs, burdens and obligations which those requirements may impose on economic operators.

Electronic signatures

(20) Paragraph (21) applies where—

(a)a competent authority of the United Kingdom located in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, or

(b)another issuing entity so located,

signs and issues a document for use in a procurement procedure within the scope of the Public Contracts Directive, whether the procedure is under this Part or under the law of any member State.

(21) The competent authority or issuing entity may establish the required advanced signature format in accordance with the requirements set out in Article 1(2) of Commission Decision 2011/130/EU and, where it does so—

(a)it shall put in place the necessary measures to be able to process that format technically by including the information required for the purpose of processing the signature in the document concerned; and

(b)the document shall contain in the electronic signature or in the electronic document carrier information on existing validation possibilities that allow the validation of the received electronic signature online, free of charge and in a way that is understandable for non-native speakers.

(1)

OJ No L 13, 19.1.2000, p12, amended by Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008 (OJ No L 311, 21.11.2008, p1).

(2)

OJ L 274, 20.10.2009, p36, last amended by Commission Decision 2013/662/EU (OJ No L 306, 16.11.2013, p21).

(3)

OJ L 53, 26.2.2011, p66, amended by Commission Implementing Decision 2014/148/EU (OJ No L 80, 19.3.2014, p7).

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