Despite European Commission draft guidelines urging government departments to choose software based on open standards, some tenders are still excluding open software.

A report from an IT vendor trade group found that a quarter of recent public tenders have ruled out open source vendors in favour of named software makers such as Microsoft.

OpenForum Europe (OFE), a trade group that lists IBM and Google among its members, examined 136 recent calls for tender by government offices from the 27 member countries of the EU and found that 34 of them cited brand names and half of these named Microsoft or specific Microsoft products.

"Public authorities not only stand accused of wasting potentially billions by inefficient purchasing, but also locking their users and citizens into today's solutions and being unable to take advantage of new innovation in the future," said Graham Taylor, OFE's chief executive.

The use of trademarks in public calls for tender discriminates against other suppliers and contractors and is prohibited by EU public procurement laws, except in some exceptional cases.

OFE is calling on the European Commission, the EU's executive body, to take action to stop the naming of suppliers in public tenders, Taylor said. He pointed out that Commission research had similar findings - a study of 3616 public tenders found that 567, or 16 per cent, named known software manufacturers. Of these, 36 per cent named Microsoft, OFE said in its statement.

The OFE call for action to stop the practice comes as the Commission tries to draft guidelines that will steer government offices as they put out calls for tender for software contracts.

The guidelines are currently being finalised, but they are expected to urge public procurement officers to favour open standards wherever possible.

Some member states are simultaneously drafting their own guidelines that go even further. The Dutch government earlier this year urged government departments to use open-source software wherever possible, for example.

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