Advertisement protest could delay GSA commercial e-marketplace pilots until April or beyond

The internet retailer has taken issue with ambiguous terms that restrict competition, since the agency revised its solicitation in January.
(Getty Images)

The General Services Administration responded Friday to an protest of the agency’s commercial e-marketplace solicitation, which could delay pilots until April — assuming revisions aren’t ordered.

Overstock filed its pre-award bid protest with the Government Accountability Office on Jan. 15 arguing some of the solicitation’s terms are ambiguous and restrict competition. The internet retailer further argued GSA didn’t allow sufficient time for companies to respond, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Overstock now has until Feb. 24 to respond to GSA’s agency report based on anything it learns. The protest itself is covered by a protective order limiting disclosure to lawyers for the private parties.

Section 846 of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act directed GSA to work with nontraditional government contractors on allowing agencies to purchase up to $250,000 — the simplified acquisition threshold — in commercial items. GSA’s initial pilot will focus on e-marketplaces like Amazon or Overstock, where competition between sellers occurs at the item level.


The agency didn’t act on industry feedback that its draft solicitation looked like a technical specification for a new, government-specific e-commerce portal like GSA Advantage, rather than something performance-based that leverages existing solutions. So Amazon Business protested the final solicitation at the agency level on Nov. 15, and GSA issued a revised request for proposals on Jan. 8 addressing its concerns.

GSA gave initial respondents until Jan. 15 to revise their proposals, which is when Overstock filed the latest protest. The protest prevents the agency from making contract awards until GAO comes to a decision, no later than April 24.

GAO could dismiss the protest or direct GSA to partially or completely rewrite the solicitation. Alternatively, GSA could revise its solicitation based on Overstock’s protest like it did with Amazon.

In the meantime, GSA can continue evaluating proposals.

Overstock did not respond to a request for comment on the grounds of its protest, and GSA declined to comment on the active protest.

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