The curious case of the open envelope inside the envelope - a propos GC's Gfi PSF v Commission Judgment (T-200/16)

The General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union (GC) has issued Judgment in case Gfi PSF v Commission, T-200/16, EU:T:2017:294 (available in French only). This is a curious case about the physical formalities imposed in a procurement procedure carried out by the European Commission (Publications Office), which required a set of envelopes to be enclosed in multiple layers so as to avoid their tampering prior to the official opening of bids. It is also interesting because it raises some issues around the difficulties in the fact finding of processes dominated by formal documentary evidence.

I am also afraid that the factual circumstances of the case are probably rather common in practice (they remind me of the submission of a tender for a multi-million concession contract that had to be submitted in suitcases locked with padlocks in Mexico some 10 years ago), and I guess that the case also reflects some of the advantages that could be gained by a proper migration to e-procurement (or at least to electronic submission of tenders).

In the case at hand, tenderers had to prepare their tenders in two separate envelopes. An envelope (a) containing their technical offer and an envelope (b) containing their financial offer. Both envelopes then had to be enclosed in a third envelope (c) marked as "Tender - not to be opened by the internal mail service" and placed in a fourth envelop (d), which had to be sent by registered mail or courier service, or be submitted in the offices of the European Commission as indicated in the letter of invitation to tender.

Gfi PSF prepared its tender in accordance with these instructions and sent it to the European Commission via UPS. However, t is worth noting that, inside envelope (c), Gfi PSF did not only include envelopes (a) and (b), but also several binders including additional information. The tender was submitted in time and there is an electronic receipt issued by UPS with a signature from a Commission official. However, an acknowledgement of receipt was also prepared by the mail service of the European Commission indicating that the offer had been received, but not in good state, and also including the following:

two headings, relating respectively to the "first container" and the "second container". In the section on the first container, the pre-printed indications "open" and "damaged" have both been checked. In the section on the second container, the same information was also checked. This last heading also contains the words "did not include the words "Do not open by the mail office"" and "there were no double envelopes", which were not checked (T-200/16, para 7, own translation from French).

After proceeding to the formal opening of the tenders, Gfi PSF's was rejected on the basis that the tender was already open when the contracting authority received it, which is a cause for rejection under Art 111(4)(b) of the Financial Regulation. After Gfi PSF challenged this decision and asked for additional details, the European Commission wrote a letter indicating that

even if the electronic receipt [issued by UPS] did not contain any remarks as to the status of the consignment containing the applicant's tender, this was because of the technical constraints of the terminal used by the courier acting for UPS. The [Commission's] note of receipt acknowledging the damage of the consignment was signed jointly by the same courier and a representative of the [Commission]. Copies of this note and a photograph of the said item were annexed to the" Commission's letter (T-200/16, para 13, own translation from French).

After inspecting the envelopes still in the custody of the Commission, counsel for Gfi PSF challenged the time, the content, and the probationary value of this acknowledgement of receipt issued by the Commission. It also sought to prove that the document had been issued unilaterally by the Commission because it was not clear that UPS had signed the note (which is however later proven wrong by the GC, see paras 53-54), and submitted that in any case the state of the offer resulted from improper handling by the Commission's mail services, rather than as a result of defective compliance with the physical requirements for the submission of the offer by Gfi PSF at the time of its expedition.

The Commission opposed this interpretation of the documents (in particular the lack of signature by a UPS representative) and the physical evidence (ie damaged envelopes), and provided additional evidence downloaded from UPS' tracking webpage, where the following remarks appeared from entries logged in the weeks following the delivery of the package to the Commission:

"[t] he goods are lacking. UPS will notify the additional details to the consignor / goods entrusted to the consignee "; and ... " [t]he damage to the contents of the packages has been reported [;] We will notify the consignor / We are investigating the claim for damages" (T-200/16, para 18, own translation from French).

Overall, then, the dispute concerns the factual circumstances of the delivery, the documentation of its receipt, as well as the ensuing investigation of the Commission's claim that the package was delivered by UPS. It is hard to imagine the physical state of the envelopes (it would have helped to have the pictures attached to the GC's Judgment), but it is certainly plausible that the envelopes where stacked in such a way that opening envelop (d) also ripped envelop (c) (particularly if they were of similar sizes). Be it as it may, the reasoning of the GC is interesting beyond the specific issues leading to the discrepancy in the state of the offer at the time of submission and of the formal opening of the tenders, which exonerates the Commission from any responsibility.

In the GC's view

... the acknowledgement of receipt is of significant probative value, since its content is attested by the signatures, on the one hand, of a person subject to the contracting authority and, on the other hand, by a third party not directly involved in the procurement tender, but rather acting indirectly on behalf of the tenderer whose tender is considered irregular by the contracting authority. However, the acknowledgement of receipt contains indications that both the first and second containers were both open and damaged, and that the second container displayed the words "Not to be open by the mail office" and contained a double envelope (T-200/16, paras 57-58, own translation from French).

This would create a difficulty in establishing the moment in which envelop (c) had been opened despite including the prescribed label against it. However, given the very peculiar circumstances of the case, where envelop (c) contained not only envelops (a) and (b)--which may not have been compromised--but also the binders including additional information, the GC found a way out by adopting a functional approach to the rules in Art 111(4)(b) Financial Regulation from the perspective of the integrity of the process. In that regard, it stressed that the submission instructions and Art 111(4)(b) aimed to ensure the confidentiality of all tenders until they are simultaneously open. From that perspective, the factual circumstances of the case led to the assessment that

On the one hand, the applicant does not claim that the binders were themselves placed in a closed envelope, the binders being visible in the photograph to which it refers, annexed to the letter of [the Commission sent during the debriefing and complaints procedure]. Furthermore, the fact that the binders were placed by the applicant in an envelope on which it indicated that it had affixed the words 'invitation to tender - not to be opened by the courier' [ie envelop (c)], which is established by the acknowledgment of receipt, shows that in the applicants' own view, the binders contained documents constituting its tender. Consequently, and due to the fact that it must be held that the outer envelope and the intermediate envelope of the item containing the applicant's tender had been presented open on the premises of the [European Commission], it must be found that certain data forming part of the applicant's offer were directly accessible. Consequently, it appears that the applicant's tender was submitted in such a way that its confidentiality, as required by Article 111 (1) of the Financial Regulation, was not guaranteed, as it was "already open" within the meaning of paragraph 4 (b) of that Article. Consequently, this offer was regularly rejected (T-200/16, paras 65-66, own translation from French).

This is important because the GC has no interest in (and probably no possibility to) establishing the way in which envelope (c) came to be open despite it being labelled as not to be open by the mail service. This fits with the burden of proof derived from a claim for damages based on Art 340 TFEU, which was the relevant underlying legal basis for this case. However, this leaves important questions unanswered, such as what would have happened if the binders were sealed in envelops, so that the opening of envelope (c) would not have made any of the contents of the offer directly accessible. In that case, the rejection of the offer on the basis that it had already been opened would be very problematic and would probably have required further investigation of how this came to be.

On balance, it seems that the GC places the burden of ensuring that the offers remain confidential on the tenderers, at least implicitly, by supporting a broad approach to the rejection of offers which confidentiality may have been compromised. As a matter of general trend, this seems preferable to the opposite. However, this also shows the unavoidable limitations of paper-based procurement procedures. Had the Commission been running an e-procurement (or at least electronic submission) process, this situation could have been easily avoided. It seems that, once more, the adaptation of procurement (and administrative activity, more generally) to new technologies cannot come quickly enough.

AG Cruz Villalon on access to leniency applications: A stringent test. Really? (C-365/12)

In his Opinion of 3 October 2013 in case C-365/12 EnBW Energie, Advocate General Cruz Villalon has proposed a holistic interpretation of the regulatory schemes relating to access to documents of the institutions and, more specifically, of access to the European Commission's files in the context of its leniency programme. In my view, the holistic approach advocated for still leaves some important issues unresolved and, consequently, the Judgment of the CJEU in this case will be highly relevant.
According to AG Cruz Villalon, when access to the file in cartel investigations is concerned,
63. In short, the presumption [that access should be refused] must operate in relation to documents the disclosure of which is either ruled out or – in the case of Regulation No 1/2003, as compared with Regulation No 1049/2001– possible only on certain conditions. In other words, the presumption should be fully effective vis-à-vis parties who, in accordance with Regulation No 1/2003 and Regulation No 773/2004, have no right, in principle, to access the documents in cartel proceedings, as in the case of EnBW here; and this must also be the case vis-à-vis parties who have only a limited right of access or a right which is recognised solely for the purposes of safeguarding the right of defence.
64. That conclusion must carry a qualification, however. The abovementioned presumption ‘does not exclude the possibility of demonstrating that a given document, of which disclosure is sought, is not covered by that presumption or that there is a higher public interest justifying the disclosure of that document under Article 4(2) of Regulation No 1049/2001 (Commission v Technische Glaswerke Ilmenau, paragraph 62)’. Consequently, the fact that Regulation No 1/2003 does not provide for access by persons who are not parties to the proceedings means only that, in the event that such persons request access, their requests must be dealt with in accordance with Regulation No 1049/2001 (as the general legislation in the area of transparency), interpreted in the light of the general presumption that disclosure of the documents may undermine the purpose of the proceedings under Regulation No 1/2003. This presumption does not in any way rule out access pursuant to Regulation No 1049/2001: it merely imposes more stringent conditions on the access granted under that regulation (emphasis added).
In his Opinion, AG Cruz Villalon takes a very different approach, but basically supports a stringent test that would lead to the same restrictive outcome supported by AG Jaaskinen some months ago in C-536/11 Donau Chemie and others, where he considered that: 
in my opinion a legislative rule would be more appropriate that provided absolute protection for the participants in a leniency programme, but which required the interests of other participants to a restrictive practice to be balanced against the interests of the alleged victims. [...] Furthermore, in my view and except for undertakings benefiting from leniency (sic!), participation in and of itself in an unlawful restriction on competition does not constitute a business secret that merits protection by EU law (para 64, emphasis added).
It is worth stressing that such a radical approach (which I criticised) was rejected by the CJEU in the final Donau Chemie Judgment:
as regards the public interest of having effective leniency programmes [...] it should be observed that, given the importance of actions for damages brought before national courts in ensuring the maintenance of effective competition in the European Union (see Courage and Crehan, paragraph 27), the argument that there is a risk that access to evidence contained in a file in competition proceedings which is necessary as a basis for those actions may undermine the effectiveness of a leniency programme in which those documents were disclosed to the competent competition authority cannot justify a refusal to grant access to that evidence (para 46, emphasis added).
AG Cruz Villalon is aware of the position of the CJEU in Donau Chemie and, consequently (but implicilty), seeks to clarify his proposal for a stringent test on access to the file (and, more specifically, to leniency applications) by stressing that:
the effectiveness of leniency programmes can be safeguarded only (sic!) if it is guaranteed that, as a general rule, the documentation provided will be used by the Commission alone. This would, of course, be the ultimate safeguard. However, other safeguards should also be considered that are less extensive but still attractive for those wanting to take advantage of those programmes. In the final analysis, the rationale underlying leniency programmes is a calculation as to the extent of the harm that might arise from an infringement of competition law. Considered in those terms, to guarantee that the information provided to the Commission can be passed on to third parties only if they can adequately prove that they need it in order to bring an action for damages could constitute a sufficient safeguard, particularly considering that the alternative might be a penalty higher than that which might ensue were the action for damages to be successful. Admittedly, it is possible that a safeguard of that kind might result in fewer parties deciding to take advantage of leniency programmes. However, the objective of maximum effectiveness for that mechanism should not be regarded as justification for a complete sacrifice of the rights of those concerned to be compensated and, more generally, for an impairment of their rights to an effective remedy under Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (para 78, emphasis added).
In my opinion, the carve out that AG Cruz Villalon creates against his own proposal for a general presumption of non-disclosure (which waiver should be subjected to a stringent test) is not terribly consistent in logical terms, but seeks to accomodate the Donau Chemie Judgment. Nonetheless, the safeguard/test is not clearly presented and the AG's Opinion in EnBW Energie does not really clarify this (increasingly?) grey area of EU competition law. In fact, in view of his concern with the protection of the commercial interests of leniency applicants, it seems that he is actually de facto advocating for the strongest (absolute) safeguard presented above (which, in those terms, would basically amount to the absolute protection advocated for by Jaaskinen and rejected by the CJEU in Donau Chemie).
Indeed, AG Cruz Villalon weakly criticises the finding of the GC in paras 147-148 of the appealed EnBW Energie Judgment (‘the interests of the undertakings that had participated in the cartel … in non-disclosure of the documents requested cannot be regarded as commercial interests in the true sense of those words. Indeed, [...] the interest which those companies might have in non-disclosure of the documents requested seems to reside not in a concern to maintain their competitive position on the [...] market [...] but, instead, in a desire to avoid actions for damages being brought against them before the national courts’. In any event, that would not constitute ‘an interest deserving of protection, having regard, in particular, to the fact that any individual has the right to claim damages for loss caused to him by conduct which is liable to restrict or distort competition’), by indicating that, in his opinion, 
the possibility that disclosure of the information provided by the undertakings in question might objectively undermine their commercial interests cannot be ruled out. The fact that the information was provided voluntarily and with a view to avoiding or minimising a penalty is, in my opinion, no basis for regarding the commercial interests involved as unworthy of protection. Otherwise, undertakings that have cooperated with the Commission would suffer a further penalty, in addition to whatever penalty is ultimately considered appropriate, in the form of the damage caused to their commercial interests (para 93).
Therefore, in my view, AG Cruz Villalon's EnBW Energie Opinion (because of its different technical approach) does put some pressure on the CJEU to finally and explicitly take a position on the compatibility with EU law of the protection of leniency applications that the European Commission and the National Competition Authorities within the European Competition Network are pursuing (see Resolution of 23 May 2012 on the protection of leniency material in the context of civil damages actions)--beyond the general remarks made in Donau Chemie.
Indeed, the CJEU failed to close that door in Donau Chemie by indicating that:
47 By contrast, the fact that such a refusal is liable to prevent those actions from being brought, by giving the undertakings concerned, who may have already benefited from immunity, at the very least partial, from pecuniary penalties, an opportunity also to circumvent their obligation to compensate for the harm resulting from the infringement of Article 101 TFEU, to the detriment of the injured parties, requires that refusal to be based on overriding reasons relating to the protection of the interest relied on and applicable to each document to which access is refused.
48 It is only if there is a risk that a given document may actually undermine the public interest relating to the effectiveness of the national leniency programme that non-disclosure of that document may be justified.
Hence, the debate is alive and kicking (on the CJEU's door) and a more definite answer is needed. Personally, I would support a very clear indication by the CJEU that leniency applications do not merit special treatment and, consequently, need to be disclosed to (credible) potential damages claimants and always under the supervision and within the context of judicial procedures. Otherwise, the leniency policy will kill damages actions and, even if it is very hard to trade-off the advantages and disadvantages of both policies, it seems clear that allowing for private redress and effective compensation is a requirement under EU law (as the CJEU has been so keen to consistently emphasise since Courage).
In the end, I would submit that the CJEU should bring his reasoning a step beyond and determine that "giving the undertakings concerned, who may have already benefited from immunity, at the very least partial, from pecuniary penalties, an opportunity also to circumvent their obligation to compensate for the harm resulting from the infringement of Article 101 TFEU, to the detriment of the injured parties" goes beyond the scope of the leniency programme--which advantages need to be contained within the sphere of the administrative effects (or, put otherwise, within the sphere of public enforcement).
Otherwise, the Commission and the NCAs will continue in their schizophrenic quest against cartels, where they try to have their cake (numerous leniency applications leading to resounding fines for the rest of the cartelists) and eat it too [by fostering a system for effective (collective) private reddress that, simply, cannot coexist peacefully with (or at least, cannot blossom under) full-blown leniency protection].

UK's Competition Commission findings on private healthcare markets unfair, says UK CAT

The UK's Competition Appeals Tribunal has disapproved the Competition Commission's provisional findings on private healthcare markets published at the end of August 2013 (see CPI press release here). 
In its Judgment of 2 October 2013, the UK CAT found that "the Commission’s rules governing the disclosure room were not fit for the purpose of allowing a proper and informed response to be made to the Commission’s provisional findings. Accordingly, the decision was in breach of the Commission’s statutory duty in section 169 of the Enterprise Act 2002 and in breach of the rules of natural justice". In my view, the path through which the UK CAT reaches this decision deserves some attention.
Generally, the UK CAT finds no fault in the design of the access to confidential information by means of a data room: "We do not consider that the decision of the Commission, in this case, to protect the Confidential Information by way of a data room instead of one or more of the other ways contemplated in paragraph 9.14 of the CC7 Guidance, to be susceptible of criticism. We accept the Commission’s view that the confidential material in this case was extremely sensitive and, in all the circumstances, the decision to protect the "specified information" in this case by way of a data room is unchallengeable on a judicial review basis." (para 49).
However, the UK CAT takes issue with the specific rules on access to the data room that the Commission imposed, which restricted access to the legal and economic advisers of the undertakings concerned and which prevented them from taking copies of the information (and only notes, subjected to scrutinity and redaction by the Commission could be retained). In the UK CAt's view:
62. The short conclusion is that consideration by the Applicants of the Confidential Information is the starting point for examining what fairness requires. It will be the Applicants who will be affected by any adverse decision of the Commission, not their advisers. Implicit in this starting point is the fact that it is for the Applicants to decide how they wish to respond. In cases like the present, doubtless that will involve the retention of an expert legal team, and expert economists and accountants. But, at the end of the day, what the "interested person" (we shall use this term as shorthand to refer to parties like the Applicants, who may be affected a decision, and who are entitled to be consulted on it) chooses to do to respond is a matter for that person, and not for that person’s legal or advisory team, still less for the body whose provisional decision is being responded to. [...]
63. This starting point may be modified and derogated from to take account of the confidential nature of the information in question. We recognise that market investigations involve – as here – considerable amounts of very confidential material, and that if that material is not appropriately safeguarded, confidence in Commission investigations will be eroded and – quite possibly – damage done to the operation of markets because of the market sensitivity of the information involved. But it must always be borne in mind that derogations from the starting point that we have identified must be such as to enable the party affected to respond.
67. A data room operates very differently from a confidentiality ring. Not only is access to the room limited to a defined class of person (in this, data rooms are similar to confidentiality rings), but also the confidential information is retained at a secure location – in the data room. This prevents the sort of accidental disclosure of confidential information that can occur in the case of confidentiality rings.
68. Use of a data room will certainly involve additional inconvenience to an interested party and its advisers. It may well mean more than this: it may mean that the drafting of a response is made materially more difficult. But this additional burden can be justified provided:
(i) the sensitivity of the material in question warrants it; and (ii) the interested person is still – despite the additional difficulties – able to make worthwhile representations [...]
69. This means that where a data room is deployed to protect sensitive information, there must be facilities available in the data room so as to enable a proper and informed (or "worthwhile") response.
After setting this background, the UK CAT considers that the rules governing the Competition Commission were faulty in three main aspects. First, "confining the Advisers to recording in their notes only Own Client Data or information derived solely from Own Client Data and/or from data in the public domain is wrong in principle" (para. 71), despite the fact that, informally, the Commission decided to oversee breaches consisting of the taking of notes concerned with other confidential information and to treat them as further disclosures of evidence (para. 58). Secondly, the UK CAT criticises the fact, that while at the data room, advisors were not provided with means to draft a response to the confidential information they could not take away (para. 72). Finally, the UK CAT considers that "the period of time in which the Advisers were allowed access to the Disclosure Room [ie 2 working days] was unreasonably short" (para. 73).

Interestingly, the UK CAT also expressly dismissed the Commission's argument that the applications against its (process leading to its) provisional findings were premature and rejected the contention that the Commission could cure any shortcomings in the access to confidential information during the remainder of the procedure (or, indeed, even after releasing the provisional findings, as they are still under review and the Commission has until April 2014 to publish its final findings and recommendations). The UK CAT considered that an initial restriction to the amount of information and the conditions for access to that information by counsel of some of the main players involved in the market investigation suffices to taint the procedure with unfairness. However, the UK CAT made no finding as to the appropriate relief and waits for the parties to request a hearing, if needed.
In my view, this is a case where 'due process' rights have been upheld to the highest possible level (maybe even to excess), and even in a setting that is not properly leading to the imposition of fines, but more of a regulatory exercise. Instances such as these may become even more common after the EU accedes the EU Convention on Human Rights and, if not properly weighed, may create a significant burden for competition law investigation and enforcement [for general discussion, see my "The EU’s Accession to the ECHR and Due Process Rights in EU Competition Law Matters: Nothing New Under the Sun?"].
Therefore, it will be interesting to see whether the Competition Commission's investigation in this sector can proceed after this significant blow by the UK CAT and, if so, whether the UK Competition Commission amends significantly its rules on access to evidence. The knock-on effect of this case on 'proper' competition law investigations in infringement procedures by the new Competition and Markets Authority (or the European Commission, as a spillover and due to the anglosaxon influence in Luxembourg) seems hard to predict, but I would submit that it will not be neutral.

Confidentiality and understandability of EU Courts' Judgments: An impossible balance? (T-135/09)

Today's Judgment of the General Court in case T-135/09 Nexans v European Commission offers an example of a case where protection of confidential information makes it very difficult (if not completely impossible) to understand the reasoning followed by the GC to (partially) quash the appealed Decision by the European Commission (in this case, ordering an inspection in a competition law matter).

One of the grounds for appeal was that the European Commission did not have reasonable suspicions of an infringement of the competition rules on the part of the applicants  concerning certain of the products covered by the inspection decision; and, consequently, the decision ordering the inspection was faulty due to lack of a proper motivation. 

The General Court addresses this issue at paras 60 to 94 of the T-135/09 Judgement. However, the substantial suppression of confidential information in some parts of the case (for instance, paras 82 and 86 to 88 are suppressed almost entirely) makes it almost impossible to follow the GC's line of argument and leaves the readers scratching their heads and trying to make some sense out of the context provided by the rest of the Judgment--which may lead to improper conclusions, unfortunately.

In these cases, maybe it would be useful to obtain a less limited confidential version if at all possible, or at least a summary of the (general) reasons for the decision reached by the GC--which help practitioners and scholars make some sense of the case and be able to use it in the future, at least as a matter of principle. Otherwise, such important Judgments (which deal with important matters of due process rights, as in the case at hand) will remain impossible to understand and will not contribute to the development of sound practice and fair adjudication in competition law matters. Nonetheless, proper protection of confidential information and ensuring the understandability of case law may not always be attainable simultaneously...

Still an excessive level of transparency in public procurement debriefing? C-629/11 P Evropaïki Dynamiki v Commission

In its Judgment of 4 October 2012 in case C‑629/11 P Evropaïki Dynamiki v Commission (ESP-ISEP), the Court of Justice has issued another interesting decision on what should be considered sufficient debriefing of disappointed bidders in public procurement procedures.

The Evropaïki Dynamiki (ESP-ISEP) Judgment has been issued on the basis of Article 100(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002 of 25 June 2002 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities (OJ 2002 L 248, p. 1) (‘the Financial Regulation’). However, a 'twin' provision can be found in Article 41 of  Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts (OJ 2004 L 134, p. 114) ('Directive 2004/18'). Consequently, the Judgment is of relevance in all areas of public procurement, and not only to that of the EU Institutions.

According to Article 100(2) of the Financial Regulation,
The contracting authority shall notify all candidates or tenderers whose applications or tenders are rejected of the grounds on which the decision was taken, and all tenderers whose tenders are admissible and who make a request in writing of the characteristics and relative advantages of the successful tender and the name of the tenderer to whom the contract is awarded.
However, certain details need not be disclosed where disclosure would hinder application of the law, would be contrary to the public interest or would harm the legitimate business interests of public or private undertakings or could distort fair competition between those undertakings’.
In this case (and furthering an unsuccessful strategy to challenge adverse award decisions that, however, has made a fundamental contribution to the development of the case law in this area), Evropaïki Dynamiki challenged the debriefing received from the European Commission both on the grounds that it was 8 days late (although both the GC and the CJEU dismiss this procedural deffect easily on the basis that the delay did not however restrict the undertaking's opportunity of asserting its rights and could not, by itself, lead to the annulment of the contested decisions) and that it was insufficient--ie that the Commission had not provided sufficient reasons to justify the award of the contract to another bidder.

Reading the Evropaïki Dynamiki (ESP-ISEP) Judgment, one cannot but wonder if EU public procurement rules do not still impose an excessive degree of transparency in the debriefing of disappointed bidders. According to the CJEU in Evropaïki Dynamiki (ESP-ISEP) 
20 [...] according to the first subparagraph of Article 100(2) of the Financial Regulation, the contracting authority is required to notify all candidates or tenderers whose applications or tenders are rejected of the grounds on which the decision was taken, and to notify all tenderers whose tenders are admissible and who make a request in writing of the characteristics and relative advantages of the successful tender and the name of the tenderer to whom the contract has been awarded.
21 However, it is apparent from the case-law that the Commission cannot be required to communicate to an unsuccessful tenderer, first, in addition to the reasons for rejecting its tender, a detailed summary of how each detail of its tender was taken into account when the tender was evaluated and, second, in the context of notification of the characteristics and relative advantages of the successful tender, a detailed comparative analysis of the successful tender and of the unsuccessful tender (see, to that effect, order of 29 November 2011 in Case C‑235/11 P Evropaïki Dynamiki v Commission, paragraphs 50 and 51 and the case-law cited).
22 Similarly, the contracting authority is not under an obligation to provide an unsuccessful tenderer, upon written request from it, with a full copy of the evaluation report (see order of 20 September 2011 in Case C‑561/10 P Evropaïki Dynamiki v Commission, paragraph 25).
23 Furthermore, it must be noted that, according to settled case-law, the statement of reasons required under the second paragraph of Article 296 TFEU must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of each case, in particular the content of the measure in question and the nature of the reasons given (see, inter alia, Case C‑367/95 P Commission v Sytraval and Brink’s France [1998] ECR I‑1719, paragraph 63, and judgment of 28 February 2008 in Case C‑17/07 P Neirinck v Commission, paragraph 52).
24 In the present case, it is apparent from paragraphs 8 and 37 of the judgment under appeal that the [debriefing] letter [...] contained the names of the tenderers selected as first contractor for each of the two lots of the call for tenders at issue.
25 In addition, [...] the Commission enclosed as annexes to that letter extracts from the two evaluation reports [...]
26 It is apparent therefrom that those extracts contained tables relating, in particular, to the technical evaluation of the tenders for both of the lots and indicating, for each award criterion, the number of points obtained by Evropaïki Dynamiki in comparison with the successful tenderer, broken down each time into sub-criteria, as well as the maximum number of points attainable per sub-criterion and the weighting of each of those sub-criteria in the overall evaluation. Summary tables showed, on the basis of the results of the technical and financial evaluation, the final ranking for each of the two lots.
27 It is also apparent therefrom that, according to the information communicated in the [debriefing] letter [...], Evropaïki Dynamiki’s tender was ranked higher than the successful tender solely under the fourth award criterion regarding the quality of the service and the methodological proposal in the domain of Lot No 2. It was also only with regard to the fourth criterion relating to the quality of the technical offer in the domain of Lot No 1 that its tender obtained the same number of points as the successful tender. On the other hand, for all other criteria, Evropaïki Dynamiki’s tender was less well ranked than that of the successful tenderer.
28 Furthermore, the comments of the evaluation committee which were also disclosed indicated, for each award criterion, the sub-criteria on the basis of which the Commission found the successful tenderer’s offer or that of Evropaïki Dynamiki to be the best.
29 Finally, the method applied by the Commission for the technical evaluation of the tenders was clearly set out in the tendering specifications relating to the call for tenders at issue. As is apparent in particular from paragraph 3 of the judgment under appeal, they specified, for each lot, the various award criteria, their respective weighting in the evaluation, that is to say in the calculation of the total score, and the minimum and maximum number of points for each criterion.
30 Accordingly, [...] in view of all the information supplied to Evropaïki Dynamiki, as well as the specifications contained in the call for tenders, including the weighting relating to the award criteria for each of the lots, Evropaïki Dynamiki had sufficient information to enable it, for each lot, to identify the characteristics and relative advantages of the best ranked tenderer’s offer.
31 It follows that, in the light of all of the elements of the present case [...]  Evropaïki Dynamiki’s argument alleging that the statement of reasons for the contested decisions was inadequate had to be rejected.
From the Judgment, it is not only clear that the Commission debriefed Evropaïki Dynamiki in full, but also that the current rules require the disclosure of certain information (of most relevance, the name of the winning bidder) that may be excessive. In that regard, the second paragraph of Article 100(2) of the Financial Regulation [or the equivalent Article 41(3) Directive 2004/18] deserve more attention, as regards the caveat that some information may (rectius, should) not be disclosed if such disclosure might prejudice fair competition between economic operators.

As pointed out elsewhere, contracting authorities and review courts should be particularly careful in not imposing excessive disclosure when there are actual risks of strategic use of challenge procedures or the market structure is such that the increased degree of transparency could (inadvertently) facilitate or reinforce collusion  [Sanchez Graells, A. Public Procurement and the EU Competition Rules (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2011) 358-9].
It should be taken into consideration that there is a risk for a strategic use of bid protest mechanisms seems at least twofold. On the one hand, tenderers could try to gain access to confidential information which could be used later to compete unfairly with the affected tenderers. On the other hand, excessive disclosure of information can increase market transparency and be used as a means to collude or to reinforce collusion by tenderers. Therefore, rules on disclosure of information should take into account their potentially restrictive or distortive effects on competition. Interestingly, Directive 2004/18 contains a specific rule addressing this issue. Article 41(3) of Directive 2004/18 allows contracting authorities to withhold certain information

regarding the contract award, the conclusion of framework agreements or admittance to a dynamic purchasing system where the release of such information would impede law enforcement, would otherwise be contrary to the public interest, would prejudice the legitimate commercial interests of economic operators, whether public or private, or might prejudice fair competition between them [see also art 29(3), art 32(4)(c), and art 35(4) dir 2004/18, emphasis added].

Therefore, in the exercise of such discretionality and as a mandate of the principle of competition, contracting authorities are bound to restrict the disclosure of information given to tenderers to prevent instances of subsequent unfair competition or collusion—and, in order to do that properly, must identify and properly justify the negative effects which the withholding of the information seeks to avoid.
Along the same lines, and although there is no equivalent provision in Directive 89/665 and Directive 92/13 (both as amended by dir 2007/66), it is submitted that the same restrictions to the disclosure of information apply in bid protests and review procedures, so that contracting authorities (in the case of mandatory reviews prior to challenges, or otherwise) and independent review bodies are bound to prevent disclosures of information that could result in restrictions or distortions of competition. In such cases, limiting the access of information to the minimum extent required to ensure the effective protection of the rights of the applicants in review procedures will require a balancing of interests by the competent authority—which, in our view, should take into due consideration the potential impact on competition of the disclosure of certain information. Such an obligation can be stressed or reinforced by general rules on the treatment of business secrets and other commercially sensitive information of general application according to Member State domestic legislation.