MEPs voted for more freedom to choose utility services

The Internal Market Committee in the European Parliament voted to allow authorities to accept not just the lowest bid, but the "most economically advantageous tender" with regard to the "utility" services. The Committee highlighted that the new rules on utility service contracts should also aim to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to bid for them and to encourage innovation.

MEPs at the Internal Market Committee voted that public authorities choosing among bids to supply them with water, energy, postal or transport services must be free to take account of environmental or social needs, and not just the cost. The "Utilities" directive is one of package of four directives on public procurement. The others are the "Classic", "Concessions" and "Third Market Access" (or "Reciprocity") directives. An update to the "Concessions" directive was also voted in the Internal Market Committee on 25 of January.

According to MEPs, the "Utilities" Directive enables EU member states to impose joint liability on contractors and subcontractors for services supplied, divide contracts into lots and in some cases open up the bidding to suppliers from third countries. The new rules would also allow public authorities to cooperate on projects without issuing a call for tenders on certain conditions.

These proposed rules updates a 2004 directive. MEPs stressed that the draft rules should enable public authorities to procure services more flexibly and hence take better, more strategic decisions on how to spend public money.