ISO Certification Requirement Discriminatory

The Commission to Promote Competition in Costa Rica found that to include ISO certification as a requirement to participate in government contracts, violates the principle of free competition.

Friday, March 4, 2011

From the COPROCOM Competition Bulletin for January-February 2011:

Recruitment Process Management, ISO and other requirements.
"Regarding the application of ISO by the Administration, COPROCOM considers that while these practices promote friendly environmental practices and quality conditions for the population, the implementation of some provisions, presented as suggestions in the Manual for the implementation of procurement in the public sector in Costa Rica, (prepared by the Information Technology Industrial Management Foundation , CEGESTI, together with the Comptroller General of the Republic), without taking into account competition goals, have led to an unjustified restriction to market access harming the principle of free competition, protected by both the Constitution and the Law on Promotion of Competition and Effective Consumer Defense."

Some institutions consider as part of requirements to be included during government contracting processes, to have ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 certifications, giving these certifications a value within offer evaluation. This practice is discriminatory and anticompetitive since there are multiple environmental certificates and there is no justification for public entities to consider only one certification or the criteria established by a particular certifier and include them as part of the evaluation within the government´s contracting process.

The requirement for this type of certification is not justified when the objective of promoting environmentally friendly production can also be reached by requesting other conditions which are compatible with free competition, as it would be to establish environmental requirements in general, without reference to a particular certificate.

COPROCOM considers this behavior particularly undesirable, since some certifications have a high cost which cannot be covered by all participants. This favors large companies with greater resources and goes to the detriment of smaller corporations. Particularly damaging is this practice if the requirement does not provide any added value to the product or service contracted and becomes only a way to prevent the access of new suppliers or to favor one of them.

The Manual for the implementation of green procurement in the public sector of Costa Rica even set the need for studies prior to the certificate compliance application, stating: "(...) in case of certifications it is important to consider that one of the factors determining whether or not you can ask for compliance, is the amount of goods which are available in the market with this certification so you do not limit bidder participation as well as the technical justification of why such certification is necessary for the goods being purchased (...) "

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