A “proof of concept” commercial e-commerce platform launch by the end of the 2019 calendar year is GSA’s aim as it works to implement a Congressional mandate to improve government access to such platforms.  This, and other details, were shared with industry at a “Phase II” discussion last week.  Based on GSA’s announced timing, a draft RFP may be issued as early as April, which would make a live RFP possible in June or July.  Right now, GSA is planning to proceed with a “commercial marketplace” concept first, as opposed to other types of e-commerce platforms. 

Several concerns were raised by industry representatives during the meeting.  One is GSA’s stated desire to require some form of pricing competition for micro-purchase level buys made via commercial platforms.  There are currently no rules requiring a “look at three pricelists” type of pricing competition and industry is concerned that instituting this requirement would effectively increase rules on all types of micro-purchases as agencies followed suit.  Congress, it should be noted, has had two opportunities to say whether it believed that extra pricing competition was needed for commercial platform buys, but has not done so.  Allen Federal recommends that companies specifically site this concern in any RFI responses or other communications with GSA.

Similarly, some in industry stated concerns over the non-applicability of the Buy American or Trade Agreements Acts.  The Coalition for Government Procurement indicated that it may call for the application of the TAA to all commercial platform purchases, citing GSA’s precedent of applying that Act at the Schedule level so that all Schedule transactions are TAA covered.  While it is likely true that the purchases made through commercial platforms, in aggregate, will exceed the TAA threshold, individual purchases will, for the foreseeable future, be at or below the Micro Purchase Threshold.  Neither Buy American, nor Trade Agreements, provisions apply to such purchases.  Congress, again, has had two opportunities to say whether the acts should apply to transactions made via commercial platforms, but has not done so.  This area is definitely worthy of more attention and discussion.

Comments on GSA’s current RFI are due on December 21st.  We recommend a close examination of the terms and conditions, including how GSA wants to access commercial catalog information, monitor price fluctuations, and implement a funding fee mechanism.  Make sure that GSA gets your input as they move toward an eventual program launch.