Only those who have references have the necessary experience. This is one of the beliefs par excellence in public procurement. It is by no means always true, but it is quite often. So you better not violate it!
What does the VOB/A say?
The following applies to national and EU-wide awards: As a rule, the contracting authority may require you to provide evidence of reference services from the last up to five years. Sometimes it may be based on a longer period. These reference services must be comparable to the tendered service. Whether or not this is the case is something the client usually only deals with once your offer has been shortlisted.
A common point of contention is comparability. Some clients (and planners) handle this criterion somewhat more strictly, others somewhat more laxly. Sometimes there are specifications in the contract notice or elsewhere as to exactly what the reference service must be. Sometimes the client is silent, but then comes to the conclusion in the evaluation that only services should be comparable where the hammer fell from the bench at the back left during the lunch break at the same time as planned in the tendered contract. A negative surprise for some bidders.
Situation of the bidder
Some bidders have done everything x times and are suitable in every respect. However, even these bidders occasionally make avoidable mistakes: they submit references that “don’t fit.” Or, they may designate their PQ number, but not ensure that the PQ directory also knows about the many complex jobs they have completed in previous years.
Other bidders suspect from the outset that things could get tight. Maybe they haven’t been on the market that long. Perhaps they only have experience with a single design so far — but not with the design (possibly) required in the tender.
If you belong to the former group, first question your own assumption. Have you really done it all x number of times, and essentially as advertised? If you can still say “yes” in good conscience, but still don’t know exactly which project(s) from this colorful variety you should ultimately name, then you could — in a timely manner — ask an intelligent, correctly worded bid question. Also, you could check — in time — what you have reported to the PQ directory and what you have not.
If you belong to the second group, you need to think very carefully about whether you ask anything at all. Sometimes it is better to remain silent. Here — among other things — what the client really expects plays a role. To give an example: Has it defined minimum requirements for comparability? Explicitly or possibly only conclusively?
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*This legal tip is not a substitute for legal advice in individual cases. By its very nature, it is incomplete, nor is it specific to your case, and it also represents a snapshot in time, as legal principles and case law change over time. It cannot and does not cover all conceivable constellations, serves entertainment and initial orientation purposes and is intended to motivate you to clarify legal issues at an early stage, but not to discourage you from doing so.