In 2012, two bid protest decisions by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Bid Unit addressed issues regarding the use of electronic bidding software. Quinn Brothers of Essex, Inc. challenged the validity of the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department’s use of BidDocs Online, Inc. (“BidDocs”) as its electronic bidding agent for a headquarters renovation project. Quinn maintained that it had submitted the lowest Miscellaneous Metals sub-bid, which the Department argued that BidDocs did not receive. Based on BidDocs’ computer log and the fact that Quinn did not receive an email confirming a successful submission, Quinn could not prove that it had submitted the bid electronically. However, Quinn argued that electronic bidding does not conform to statutory requirements that bids be “publicly opened” and read “by the awarding authority.” The Attorney General determined that nothing in G.L. c. 149 prohibits a public entity from delegating to a vendor the authority to open bids. It further determined that BidDocs’ process satisfies the purpose of a “public opening” because the bids are kept secret until they are made viewable to the public online immediately after the close of bidding.
In a second protest involving electronic bidding, the town of Granby used Projectdog, Inc. as its agent for electronic distribution of bid documents for the town’s new library project. BidDocs protested the procurement because Projectdog denied access to the website containing the project plans and specifications by employees of BidDocs and certain other competitors of Projectdog. The Attorney General held that the procurement violated the requirement in G.L. c. 149, §44B(1) that complete plans and specifications be made available to “each person requesting the same.” In a public bidding context, Projectdog was not allowed to determine which persons requesting copies of the bidding documents were eligible to receive them.