First, I clearly understand that solicting offers from a manufacturer and its distributors/resellers using a brand, part or model number, or other manufacturer specific criteria would not constitute competition.
However, if generic requirements are solicited in a competitive quote request and manufacturer specific criteria is NOT used in the solicitation, given that often times distributors can offer prices lower than manufacturers due to volume discounts they can get, why could that not be considered competitive? For example, if I wanted to buy a computer and did not specify a brand, part or model number, or any other crieria that would be unique to one manufacturer, why could I not solicit offers from distributors and manufacturers and consider that competitive? Let's say I solicited Dell, HP, Office Depot, and Staples. Dell and HP will only offer their brands, while Office Depot and Staples may offer Dell or HP at lower prices than Dell or HP and may also offer Sony, Toshiba, IBM, or others. This would clearly seem to be a competitive situation, despite the DFARS cite above and, where distributors or resellers offer a price lower than the manufacturer, would be in the Government's best interest.
In response to this question, a review of FAR 6.302-1(c) states that if you specify a requirement in your solicitation that describes a particular feature or function that is required and is specific to one brand and you use the brand name description, you are not allowing for full and open competition. For instance, if you were looking to buy 100 flat screen TVs that have a picture-in-a-picture feature and the only product available is a Sony Model 123PIP, and Sony is the only manufacturer that makes TVs with this feature, then full and open competition is not present. If this were a valid requirement, you would cite FAR 6.302-1 as your authority to procure from only one source and it would not be considered full and open competition.
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Looking at FAR 11.104 regarding brand name or equal, the requirement would use its salient characteristics such as: flat screen TV, FullHD 1080p, 42 inch, LCD, landscape or portrait presentation, and an RS232 input – Suggested Model Sony FWD-S42E1 or equal. A requirement filled in this manner would constitute full and open competition because it allows other brands that meet these requirements to quote. As prescribed by FAR 11.104, the clause 52.211-6 is required to be in the solicitation. Reference the last sentence of the FAR citation below.
FAR 6.302-1(c) Application for brand name descriptions. An acquisition that uses a brand name description or other purchase description to specify a particular brand name, product, or feature of a product, peculiar to one manufacturer does not provide for full and open competition regardless of the number of sources solicited. It shall be justified and approved in accordance with FAR 6.303 and 6.304. The justification should indicate that the use of such descriptions in the acquisition is essential to the Government’s requirements, thereby precluding consideration of a product manufactured by another company. See 5.102(a)(6) for the requirement to post the brand name justification. (Brand-name or equal descriptions, and other purchase descriptions that permit prospective contractors to offer products other than those specifically referenced by brand name, provide for full and open competition and do not require justifications and approvals to support their use.)
The reference to DFARS 215.403-1(c)(1)(b) discusses exceptions regarding prohibitions on obtaining cost or pricing data from contractors. It states when adequate price competition exists, i.e. two or more responsible offerors submitting and offer, then cost or pricing data shall not be obtained. This reference may be used to define what constitutes adequate price competition for other parts of the FAR.