Monday, August 25, 2014

What is Your Bid Submittal Deadline?

How you describe your bid submittal deadline may make a difference between whether you get a bid protest or not.  Or whether you receive non-responsive or responsive bids.  If you're a bidder, you want clarity so that you know what the expectations are for when the bid is timely.

Precise language to avoid ambiguity:  Because submission of bids is often a last minute (or second) affair, it's important that the language in your bid documents describing the deadline be precise so there is no room for misinterpretation as to whether a bid has been submitted on time or is late.

Problematic deadline language:  In reviewing bid documents for various public agencies, I've often seen the following language, all of which is ambiguous as to the real deadline:
  • Bids must be submitted prior to 2:00 pm
  • Bids must be submitted up to 2:00 pm
  • Bids must be submitted at 2:00 pm
  • Bids must be submitted at 2:00 pm exactly
The problem with each of these examples is that they are not precise when a bid is on time versus late.  For example, in the first and second examples, is a bid submitted at 2:00 pm timely or must it be submitted "prior to" or "up to" 2:00 pm?  The last two examples imply that bids may only be submitted "at" 2:00 pm, but not before.

Preferred deadline language:  I think the best practice for bid submission language is as follows:
  • Bids must be submitted no later than 2:00 pm
This language is clear that if a bid is submitted after or later than 2:00 pm it will be deemed non-responsive.

Review your bid documents:  Take a look at your bid documents for how they describe the time of the deadline.  Of course, your language must also address the date and the place where bids must be submitted.

Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog
© 2014 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC


Anonymous said...

Your first example of bad wording - "Prior to 2:00 pm" - and your example of a best practice - "No later than 2:00 pm" - are exactly the same in terms of their precision.

"Prior to 2:00 pm" means that if the receipt time is 2:00 pm, it's late. Plain and simple.

If you find that to be confusing, I can easily suggest problems with your example of a best practice. For example, what if a bid is submitted at 2:00 and 30 seconds? Technically that is later than 2:00. In fact, saying "prior to 2:00" is more specific and a better practice because it gives an exact and unambiguous cutoff time.

Mike Purdy said...

Perhaps it should read "no later than 2:00:00 pm" in order to deal with the seconds. A lot depends on what you are using for the official time and whether it goes out to seconds or only minutes. I think that using "prior to 2:00 pm" creates confusion in that a bidder will think that 2:00 pm is acceptable. The take away from this whole discussion is to have clear language and a good official clock.