Protest Against Contract Award

B-196432,B-196432.2: Jan 9, 1980

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Two firms protested the award of a Veterans Administration (VA) contract for a nurses call system. The firms' bids were rejected as nonresponsive for failure to comply with a solicitation requirement to provide documents issued by a nationally recognized testing laboratory certifying that the equipment met a certain standard. The firms contended that their bids met the solicitation requirements because they included the UL symbol and referred to the specific standard required. The VA maintained that this was not sufficient and that only submission of cards issued directly by UL would suffice. GAO has held that a bid that offers to perform, without exception, the exact requirement called for in the invitation for bids (IFB) is a responsive bid. It has also held that the required commitment need not be made in the manner specified by the solicitation, but must merely commit the bidder to the solicitation's material requirements. In this case, GAO held that the VA position was too rigid. Since the UL symbol is a registered trademark and may only be used in connection with a tested and approved product, it was held to be unlikely that a bidder would falsely indicate UL approval. Since the purpose of the IFB paragraph was to secure a commitment that the equipment supplied met the specified UL standard, GAO held that the protesters' bids clearly complied in all material respects and that their failure to provide the listing cards might be waived. Accordingly, it was recommended that if either firm was otherwise acceptable, the VA should terminate the contract and make an award to the lowest responsive, responsible bidder. The protests were sustained.