On June 1, 2015, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (“OFPP”) released a Memorandum for Chief Acquisition Officers and Senior Procurement Executives to provide guidance on “Effective Use of Reverse Auctions.” Reverse auctions are a web-based procurement tool that allows sellers to compete with successively lower bids to obtain awards for products and services. Although the use of reverse auctions by contracting agencies has been steadily increasing (nearly tripling from 7,193 actions to 19,688 between FY 2008 and FY 2012, reaching a value of $828 million), the tool is not currently addressed under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (“FAR”). A December 2013 Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) report highlighted the growing trend in use of this tool and called upon OFPP to issue comprehensive government-wide guidance. In response, OFPP’s June 1, 2015 memorandum provided a set of “reminders” to help contracting officers maximize the potential benefits of this tool.
This article briefly explains how reverse auctions work, identifies trends in use, and summarizes highlights of OFPP’s recommendations that may impact future use of reverse auctions.