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FAQs - Frameworks/contracts

What are the Public Contracts Regulations?

All public sector contracts for goods, services or works by public sector bodies are subject to EU procurement rules which have been implemented into UK legislation. The Public Contracts Regulations will apply where the value of the contract is over the financial threshold stated those Regulations.

The purpose of the procurement legislation is to open up public procurement to EU-wide competition.   The legislation is intended to ensure that contracts are awarded fairly, transparently and without discrimination on the grounds of nationality and that all potential bidders are treated equally.

The Public Contracts Regulations require all public sector bodies seeking to make a purchase of goods, services or works (over the relevant threshold) to advertise their contract opportunities in the EU's Official Journal, and to follow procedural rules set down in the Regulations for how the procurement must be undertaken.   ESPO’s frameworks are compliant with the Public  Contracts  Regulations.

The new Public Contracts Regulations 2015 came into force on 26 February 2015.

What is a framework?

The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 define a framework agreement as

    "In these regulations, “framework agreement” means an agreement between one or more contracting authorities and one or more economic operators, the purpose of which is to establish the terms governing contracts to be awarded during a given period, in particular with regard to price and, where appropriate, the quantity envisaged."

The Regulations apply when public authorities seek to acquire goods, services or works. The framework agreement may, itself, be a contract to which the EU procurement rules apply. Alternatively it may be a simple agreement under which contracts are only formed when goods, services or works are called off.

What form do ESPO's frameworks take?

ESPO frameworks fall into 3 categories:

  • Call-off frameworks – Frameworks where goods and/or services are defined and priced, and against which you can simply place an order with the supplier that best meets your requirements.
  • Further competition frameworks – Frameworks where one or more suppliers have been evaluated against criteria such as financial stability, track record, experience and technical and professional ability within their market. The specific goods and/or services required may however vary from one customer to another, making it difficult to pre-define requirements and provide pricing. These frameworks are structured to enable customers to define their own specific requirements and run a further competition to identify the best solution.
  • Frameworks which include both a call-off and a further competition option – where, if the solutions meet your needs you can simply place an order, or you can run a further competition if appropriate.

Why are they called frameworks not contracts?

Frameworks are often referred to as ‘contracts’. This is a commonly used misnomer. Legal definitions vary, but in essence a contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties which commits them to exchanging goods and/or services in return for a consideration (normally money).

Frameworks are different, as they do not normally include a legally binding commitment on the customer to receive the goods/services and to make payment. Only when the customer places an order under the terms of the framework does it become a contract between the customer and the supplier.

Why use a framework?

Frameworks are a particularly effective means of acquiring goods and services the requirements for which occur on a periodic or regular basis, and especially lend themselves to collaborative procurement as they enable the requirements of many organisations to be aggregated, thereby securing economies of scale, whilst at the same time eliminating the need to run separate competitive tendering exercises for each requirement, reducing the amount of time and effort required to procure the requirement.

What makes ESPO able to create compliant frameworks?

The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 designate some organisations as “Central Purchasing Bodies”. ESPO is classed as a “Central Purchasing Body” which means:

A contracting authority which -
(a)  acquires goods or services intended for one or more contracting authorities;
(b)  awards public contracts intended for one or more contracting authorities; or
(c)   concludes framework agreements for work, works, goods or services intended for one or more contracting authorities;

In regard to Central Purchasing Bodies (1) A contracting authority may acquire supplies or services, or both from a Central Purchasing Body offering a centralised purchasing activity. Contracting Authorities may acquire works, supplies and services, or any one or more of them, by –

(a) using contracts awarded by a central purchasing body;
(b) using dynamic purchasing systems operated by a central purchasing body; or
(c) using a framework concluded by a central purchasing body.

A contracting authority fulfils its obligations under Part 2 of the Regulations if it undertakes one of the activities listed above. Note however that contracting authorities will be responsible for fulfilling the obligations imposed under Part 2 of the Regulations in respect of any parts of the procedure that it conducts itself, such as conducting a reopening of competition (i.e. further competition) under a framework agreement that has been concluded by the Central Purchasing Body.  

What is the difference between a User Guide and a Quick Start Guide?

A User Guide will contain all details about the framework including full supplier details and pricing information. There will also be information on how to place orders, managing the framework and terms and conditions.

A Quick Start Guide will enable visitors to the website to view brief information on the framework, such as the overview, who can use the framework and a list of suppliers. There will be no pricing or sensitive information available on the Quick Start Guide.

If you would like to view the full User Guide then you would need to be eligible to use ESPO and registered with us.
For a full list of organisations eligible to use ESPO please click here

Can I have a copy of a previous version of a User Guide?

Our User Guides often have many different versions, we always keep the most recent version of a User Guide available on this website, however we appreciate you may at times require a previous version to refer back to pricing or supplier information. 

If you would like a previous version, please contact the Buyer listed on the relevant framework page stating which version you require.


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Working in partnership with

ERA 2018
Feefo 2020
Youth Sport Trust
Love British Food