Public contracting authorities must leave a period of least 10 days between a contract award decision and the formal award of the contract. This is known as the standstill (Alcatel) period. It is a legal requirement for all public contracting authority procurement processes covered by the full scope of the EU Procurement Directives.
The purpose of the standstill is to allow unsuccessful bidders the chance to obtain more information on the award of the contract so they can take appropriate action if they believe they have been unfairly treated.
The Alcatel period derives its name from two European cases (C81/98 - Alcatel Austria v Bundeministerium für Wissenschaft und Verkehr and C212/02 - Commission v Austria) which brought about the change in the law.
 What does it apply to?
The period applies to ‘public contracting authorities’ for the supply of goods, works and services contracts above the threshold value. These thresholds range from around £156,000 for essential local government supplies and services contacts (£101,000 for central government) up to around £3,927,000 for works contracts. Similar regulations apply to utilities companies.
 Beginning of the standstill period
The commencement of the standstill (Alcatel) period is from the date the authority decides to award the contract. At this point, the authority will produce an Alcatel letter indicating the beginning of the standstill. This provides bidders with the opportunity to challenge the award decision before the contracts are signed.
 Duration of standstill
The standstill (Alcatel) period will last from 10 to 15 days, depending on the method by which the Alcatel letter is communicated.
It is usual that if the means of communication is electronic, that the time period will be 10 days. However, if the means is to be non-electronic then this can be either 15 days from the date of sending, or 10 days from the date of receipt.
 Legal background
The 10-day period is usually scheduled as follows:
- Day 0: Notification of award decision through the Alcatel letters.
- Day 2: Deadline for unsuccessful bidders to request an ‘accelerated debrief’. This can be a means of obtaining information that may facilitate a challenge to the award.
- Day 3 to 7: Responses must be made to debriefing requests during this period. Should there be delays in providing the necessary information the standstill period can be extended.
- Day 10: Standstill period ends at midnight.
- Day 11: If no legal challenge is brought forward, the final award of the contract is made.
In 2009, the provision for an accelerated debrief changed, with the necessary details relating to the contract award decision needing to be provided to all unsuccessful bidders without them having to request it by the end of Day 2.
For more information, see Accelerated debrief.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Accelerated debrief.
- Breach of contract.
- Construction contract.
- Contract award.
- Contract conditions.
- Contract documents.
- Contract v tort.
- Contracts under seal v under hand.
- Essentials of a contract.
- Framework contract.
- Government Construction Strategy.
- Letter of award.
- OJEU procurement practices.
- Procurement route.
- Public procurement.
- Social value act.
- Tender documentation.
- Tender processes.
 External references
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