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Rule 4:
Protection of supplier information

Explains that agencies must protect suppliers' confidential or commercially sensitive information and sets out the circumstances when this obligation will not apply.

  1. Each agency must protect suppliers' confidential or commercially sensitive information. This includes information that could compromise fair competition between suppliers.
  2. An agency must not disclose confidential or commercially sensitive information unless:
    1. the supplier has already agreed to it in writing, or
    2. the disclosure is required by law (eg under the Official Information Act 1982), convention or Parliamentary or Cabinet Office practice, or
    3. it is a limited disclosure expressly notified in a Notice of Procurement to which suppliers have consented by participating in the process.

More information on commercially sensitive information

Commercially sensitive information is information that, if disclosed, could prejudice a supplier’s commercial interests.

It includes:

  • the design and content of a tender
  • trade secrets and ‘know-how’
  • new ideas
  • innovative solutions
  • pricing structures
  • profit margins
  • market strategies.

Agencies must understand what commercially sensitive information is and how to handle that information.

Examples of prohibited disclosure of information include:

  • disclosing commercially sensitive information to a supplier's competitor
  • using or adopting an idea or solution without the supplier's agreement.

It is good practice to include instructions to suppliers (in your Notice of Procurement) to mark their responses, or the relevant parts of their responses, as 'commercial in confidence'.

If, as part of the evaluation process, you need to share responses with other agencies or advisors, you will need to seek permission for such disclosure by making this a condition of participation in your Notice of Procurement.