Public procurements: April is tackling the issue of illegal public procurement of computers

Paris, november 18th, 2010. Press release

Some calls for tenders in public procurement for computer software and hardware explicitly exclude Free Software by demanding proprietary technologies. Such tenders are illegal and discriminatory. That is why April, in accordance with its mission of promotion and defense of Free Software, is tackling this issue via an awareness campaign targeted to public buyers.

Indeed, when a public procurement demands a specific brand, patent or technology, it excludes all other solutions, including potentially innovative Free Software, despite the limitations in the legislation regarding the reference to a specific technology in public procurements. In France, the Public Procurement Code (code des marchés publics) prohibits the mention of specific brands, patents or technology1. European law also applies the same principles: the Commission consequently (called to order?) France (in 2004) and other European countries multiple times on the issue2, after which the ministry of Economy published a guidebook on the best practices in public procurement for computers3 But today still, over 20% of public procurement in computer software at European level do not respect those principles4. This obligation is not purely formal, and international examples such as the one in Canada 5 shows both the importance of conforming to the rules and the opportunities that stem from them.

Such illegal practices are nefarious for competition and unduly exclude Free Software companies from public procurement. That is why April is doing a awareness campaign targeted to public buyers. "Such practices are often the result of public buyers who do not realize the importance of the issue", explains Jeanne Tadeusz, publics affairs officer at April. "This campaign does not aim at stigmatization, but at informing and helping. That's the reason why we are offering such tools: to change the situation at the local level". to achieve this goal, a guidebook (in French) is now available on April's website, which gives out pointers for companies which are dealing with this problem on a daily basis.

April is joining forces for this campaign with the French National Council for Free Software (Conseil National du Logiciel Libre) which regroups the main regional associations of Free software companies.

"Those illegal public tenders have nefarious consequences for the economy as a whole", concludes Patrice Bertrand, spokesperson for the CNLL. Not only the companies cannot offer their products, but public buyers are also depriving themselves of solution which might better fit their needs. And as for citizens, they also are affected, if nothing else by the impact on public finances : public buying represent over 10% of France GDP 6, hence the importance of following the rules of equality between candidates in order to choose the best offer available".

April's president and the spokesperson for the CNLL have sent a letter to the presidents of the Association of the Regions of France (Association des régions de France - ARF), of the Assembly of the Departements of France (Assemblée des départements de France - ADF), and of the association of the mayors of France (association des maires de France - AMF) for an interview in order to present the aims of this campaign.

The campaign will kick off during the salon des Maires et des Collectivités Locales in Paris.

About April

Founded in 1996, April is the main French advocacy association devoted to promote and protect Free/Libre Software. With its 5476 members (5004 individuals, 472 businesses, associations and organizations), April is a pioneer of Free Software in France. Since 1996, it is a major player in the democratization and the spread of free software and open standards to the general public, professionals and institutions in the French-speaking world. It also acts as a watchdog on digital freedoms, warning the public about the dangers of private interests keeping an exclusive stranglehold on information and knowledge.

Press contacts:

Frédéric Couchet, Executive Director, +33 6 60 68 89 31

Jeanne Tadeusz, Public Affairs officer, +33 1 78 76 92 82