General Services Administration:

Vendor Concerns About GSA's On-line Ordering System

GGD-00-162R: Published: Jun 29, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 2000.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the General Services Administration's (GSA) on-line ordering system, GSA Advantage, focusing on: (1) vendor concerns; and (2) the Federal Supply Service's (FSS) views on the concerns and the actions it is taking to improve Advantage.

GAO noted that: (1) an information technology (IT) industry representative was concerned that FSS requires vendors who sell high-end IT equipment, such as servers and mainframe computers, to provide product information, including features and options available on the equipment, for Advantage that is too detailed and is already available on vendors' World Wide Web sites; (2) the IT industry representative and vendors said that buyers of these products are unlikely to purchase them on-line because of the complexity involved in designing system configurations and the multitude of options available with the equipment; (3) according to the vendors, buying these products requires direct contact with the vendors to determine the best configuration; (4) the IT industry representative and the vendors also said that formatting the pricing and product information for Advantage is very labor intensive because the information is continuously changing, necessitating frequent updates on Advantage; (5) the IT industry representative and selected vendors were also concerned that Advantage orders often have errors that necessitate follow-up discussions and the submission of paper or faxed purchase orders; (6) they believed that the problem stemmed from the length of time it can take to get FSS to approve price changes and update price and product information on Advantage; (7) as a result, buyers often submit orders with prices that vendors consider outdated or for products that may have changed or been discontinued; (8) this is a particular problem with IT products because as indicated earlier, prices can change daily, and new products are always becoming available; (9) another concern was that despite the resource investment that IT vendors incur in placing products on Advantage, sales volume through Advantage has been low; (10) the IT industry representative estimated that Advantage sales typically have accounted for less than 1 percent of IT vendors' total schedule orders; (11) FSS officials said they are committed to making Advantage easy and effective for vendors while providing a world class Web site for buyers that is efficient to use; (12) they said that their efforts ultimately are intended to increase competition and address the socioeconomic programs of the federal government; (13) the officials added that they have made many changes in response to issues raised by vendors, such as eliminating the requirement for product codes with each item submitted; and (14) they also established a vendor support center to assist vendors 5 days a week, 12 hours a day and are willing to meet with vendors to discuss problems.

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