For contracts above the relevant EU threshold, contracting authorities must not enter into a contract before the end of the standstill period.
The standstill period provides for a short pause between the point when the contract award decision is notified to bidders, and the final contract conclusion, during which time suppliers can challenge the decision. It is a legal requirement imposed by The Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The purpose is that for contracts subject to the EU procurement directives, a contract award decision must be open to review before contract conclusion. This enables the award decision to be set aside by a court where an aggrieved bidder has been prejudiced by a breach of the rules. By properly applying the standstill period authorities can protect themselves from potential ineffectiveness claims.
Duration of the standstill period
The date the communication concerning the outcome of the procurement process is sent is Day 0, then:
- if communication is by electronic means (email or fax) the standstill period must be a minimum of 10 days;
- if communication is by non-electronic means (post, courier etc) the standstill period must be either 15 days from the relevant sending date or 10 days from the date the last notification to tenderers is received
The end of the standstill period should be:
- midnight of the 10th day after the relevant sending date (or midnight of the 15th day if sent by post);
- extended if necessary to end on a 'working day', e.g., around public holidays and weekends
If there is a legal challenge during the standstill period, the award of the contract must be suspended until the courts have rules (or the challenge is withdrawn).
Sample standstill notification letters are provided in the Generic Tender Documentation section. Further information is also available in the Cabinet Office Guide to the Standstill Period.
Note: When notifying tenderers of your proposed award decision, that the preferred tenderer does not perceive that it was actually been awarded the contract, rather that in the event that no formal complaints are received and the process is delayed, it is your intention to award the contract after a stated date.
The standstill period does not apply in the following circumstances;
- to below threshold procurements
- to procurements outside the full scope of the procurement directives
- where single tendering takes place under the urgency provision of the negotiated procedure.
However, it is good practice to run a voluntary standstill period to reduce the risk of a claim for ineffectiveness (stopping the contract being cancelled by the courts should a unsuccessful bidder raise a successful challenge).