Small communications agencies: malfunctions observed in local authority tenders

Small communications agencies are often the victims of malfunctions in public tenders. However, for several months now, public purchasers have been invited to follow a code of good practice. The aim of this code is to better select agencies and compensate them for services provided during the selection phase.

Unsuccessful bids

Small, independent communications agencies account for almost 80% of the companies listed in the sector, but only 20% of the public market.

When it comes to public procurement, the purchaser, the local authority, must make public the fact that it is looking for a company. Invitations to tender may be published in a variety of media, enabling companies to be informed of the purchaser's needs and to submit their bids. The purchaser uses a specific procedure to make the final choice.

In public contracts for communications services, local authorities pre-select several agencies for the same project, without a dedicated budget, and then, depending on the work carried out, select the winning agency.

For several months now, the regions have been warning of the extent of malfunctions in this market.

" More and more consultations are leading agencies to carry out all the work as part of their selection process, for example for the creation of a logo," Julien Roset, President of the Union des conseils en communication du Grand Sud and co-founder of the Occitan agency Just Happiness, tells Les Echos newspaper.

Agencies that are not selected, and are required to provide many hours of unpaid work, end up dropping out during the bidding process. Faced with such rejections, many are reluctant to take the plunge.

"There are public advertisers to whom no one responds any more," says the Union des conseils en communication (UCC) of the Grand Est region.

Setting up a code of good practice

Last spring, after 18 months of negotiation with the French business ombudsman, a code of best practice was published. This limits the number of respondents to three, as opposed to five in the first round. The new document also calls on public purchasers to compensate unsuccessful agencies for their work. Calculation rules are proposed.

This advance is not binding, however, as the remuneration of tenderers is already governed by a public procurement code. Indeed, local authorities are obliged to pay compensation to players who have carried out significant work. The difficulty lies in determining when significant work begins.

" During a year and a half of mediation, the discussion focused on the subject," explains David Leclabart, President of the AACC (Association des agences conseils en communication) and head of Australie, to Les Echos.

It remains to be seen whether the efforts expected by small independent communications companies will actually be made by local authorities.