NOT OFFERING AN EXACT PRODUCT? COULD BE CURTAINS FOR YOU
When a government buyer stipulates in an RFP that they want an “exact product” that is, apparently, what they mean, even if the items involved are “aircraft curtains”. A recent protester at GAO found out the hard way that “exact” means just that and not an extremely similar item made by an “authorized source.” While the case, reported by the law firm of Jackson Kelly, involved a military specification, there are instances of companies offering “similar” commercial items that lost protests as well. One famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) case involved the Army’s conduct of a GSA Schedule procurement for jogging bras. The losing bidder challenged the award stating that the winning company’s product contained a slightly different fiber mix from the product offered for sale in its GSA catalog. GAO upheld the protest, just as they denied the protest of the unsuccessful offeror offering a remarkably similar, but not exact, aircraft curtain. Contractors can take two things away from these experiences: 1. Make sure that your offer provides the exact item being required in cases where the RFP so stipulates. 2. It’s always worth checking your competitor’s catalog, GSA Advantage listing, or web site to ensure that the product or service they’re offering matches what’s on their GSA Schedule or other IDIQ contract. Even small differences can matter and, if you find yourself on the losing end of a procurement, you could get a chance to bid again if your competitor offered something other than what either the customer wanted or they had on contract.