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The Informed Purchaser: Defining Metadata

Occasionally, you may encounter certain terms or concepts used in conjunction with antitrust issues, competition, and schemes to exploit purchasers. In this installment of “The Informed Purchaser,” let’s talk about metadata.
Metadata, is, simply put, data about data. When you send an email, the “To:”, “From:”, “Subject:”, and what email program was used all are examples of metadata – information about the email. Documents created on your computer using programs like Word, Excel, and Adobe Acrobat all have metadata attached to them. That metadata can provide valuable information when you have questions about bids or when you suspect vendors may be sharing information. 
For example, check the “Info” or “Properties” sections of electronic bid documents. Do they have the same author, even though they were submitted by different vendors? Is the “Created” date the same in each bid, even though the “Last Changed” or “Edited” dates are different? 
If so, it may be a sign that the vendors – instead of working independently to win the business – are sharing documents or even allowing each other to submit losing bids on their behalf.
Using metadata, in conjunction with other red flags, may help you identify colluding vendors and ensure that you are getting the most of the competitive process.