TECHNOLOGY, OUTSOURCING, AND COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS
NEWS FOR LAWYERS AND SOURCING PROFESSIONALS

When responding to requests for proposals (RFPs), vendors should be conscious that they might be disclosing highly confidential or commercially sensitive material to the potential customer, with no guarantee of securing the proposed contract. Such information could, without any restrictions, be used by the potential customer to assist the vendor’s competitors or to develop solutions in-house.

In light of this, prudent vendors should carefully consider what legal protections they include in their RFP responses alongside operational and commercial details. We have set out some key considerations below.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) published on December 9, 2019, its report on financial institutions’ increasing reliance on third parties to provide cloud computing services (the Report). Established by the G-20 in April 2009 to promote international financial stability, the FSB is an international body that assesses vulnerabilities in the global financial system and coordinates the work of national financial authorities and international standard-setting organizations to develop and promote appropriate regulatory and supervisory policies.

The Report outlines the benefits from the increasing use of third-party cloud computing services, focusing primarily on cost savings, improved competition and cybersecurity, and increased operational resilience. It notes, though, the new challenges that the current scale of use may pose, such as the significant and systemic effects that an operational failure of critical third-party infrastructure could have. This is due to the highly concentrated cloud computing sector and the increasingly complex network of third-party suppliers and dependencies.

The UK government has indicated that the UK’s approach to public procurement will fundamentally change post-Brexit. While it remains to be seen whether such a fundamental change will be possible in practice, the UK government’s pronouncements clearly suggest that change is on the way, which will most likely provide a less prescriptive framework for UK contracting authorities to follow.

These changes will almost certainly have a significant impact on how outsourcing and technology providers interact with the UK government, both in the context of their current agreements and also in respect of future contract bids and awards.

Current Regime

The laws that govern the UK’s public procurement regime are largely based on EU rules found in several EU directives and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Broadly speaking, these rules aim to open up public procurement to EU-wide competition. Public bodies must, for example, award public contracts without discrimination on grounds of nationality and advertise their contracts EU-wide via the Official Journal of the European Union ( OJEU).

The US–China trade deal signed on January 15 aims to strengthen intellectual property protection for US intellectual property holders.

The deal increases the scope of actors liable for trade secret misappropriation to include all natural persons, groups of persons, and legal persons. The deal also enumerates additional acts constituting trade secret misappropriation, such as electronic intrusions and a breach or inducement of a breach of duty not to disclose information that is secret or intended to be kept secret. To further strengthen the protection of trade secrets, the deal provides that “China shall prohibit the unauthorized disclosure of undisclosed information, trade secrets, or confidential business information by government personnel or third party experts or advisors in any criminal, civil, administrative, or regulatory proceedings conducted at either the central or sub-central levels of government in which such information is submitted.”

The terms “reseller” and “distributor” are often used interchangeably to describe entities that purchase goods or services from a manufacturer and then distribute or resell such goods or services to retailers and consumers. However, there are some key differences between a distributor and a reseller and important issues to consider in agreements with resellers and distributors.

You signed a long-term deal. It would be embarrassing if, in a few years after signing, the pricing is significantly higher or your service levels are significantly lower than market. Benchmarking provisions are intended to provide a mechanism for ensuring that your pricing and/or service levels are within market (taking into consideration the unique factors applicable to your deal). Set out below are some of the key components of a meaningful benchmarking provision.

Open Banking is an initiative mandated by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2017. It is intended to facilitate better competition in the banking sector by mandating protocols that facilitate the secure sharing of customer-related data of the nine largest banks in the United Kingdom (CMA9) with third-party providers (TPPs).

Open Banking is developed and delivered in the United Kingdom by the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE). The OBIE was established by the CMA and is funded by the CMA9. The CMA’s UK Retail Banking Market Investigation Order 2017 (Order), which applies only to the CMA9, requires the CMA9 to provide their customers with the ability to access and share their account data on an ongoing basis with TPPs through the use of specified application programme interfaces (APIs). This compliments the reforms under the EU’s Second Payment Directive (as transposed in the United Kingdom primarily by the Payment Services Regulations 2017), which requires all payment account providers to permit open access to payment accounts for authorized TPPs, but which does not specify the means of access or prescribe the scope of access in any detail.

In this contract corner, we consider the concepts of “good faith” in commercial contracts under English law.

The General Position Under English Law

The notion of good faith is a complex and evolving concept under English law, and it has important implications for those drafting commercial contracts. In contrast to many other civil (e.g., France and Germany) and common (e.g., United States and Australia) law jurisdictions, there is no general doctrine of good faith either in negotiating or in performing a contract. Instead, parties are free to pursue their own self-interests, so long as they do not act in breach of contract. However, the notion of good faith can still impact commercial contracts in three main ways:

We have all heard the horror stories: system implementation deals costing 300% more than the original budget, go-live dates for development projects being way past the scheduled dates, and deliverables that do not meet the customer’s expectations. These are the stories that keep us lawyers up at night. So what can we do in the contract to incent timely, on-budget performance by the vendor? First, there is no substitute for a detailed and well-thought-out requirements document, which provides the roadmap that shapes the design, build, and deployment. Then, while there is no magic bullet, there are numerous contractual mechanisms to be considered that are designed to provide guideposts and checkpoints to enable success.

Set out below are 10 contractual mechanisms for providing meaningful performance commitments and consequences if the commitments are not met. Maybe you will not need to invoke these mechanisms, but having firm rules may help drive good behavior (you know the old adage, “good fences make good neighbors”). As is always the case, the appropriate mechanisms to be used are deal specific, and not all deals or relationships require the full spectrum of contractual commitments set out below (but some do!).

Please join us for a dynamic webinar on hot issues impacting the structuring and negotiation of ecommerce contracts in 2020. Donald G. Shelkey and Eric Pennesi of our Technology, Outsourcing and Commercial Transactions practice will present and lead discussions on topics including:

  • Privacy and Security
  • Deals We Expect to See: An Integration Infection!
  • 2020 Market Positions

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, from 12:00–1:00 pm (Eastern Time). Register here.