The importance of digital evidence gathering for competition authorities in their fight against anti-competitive conduct has become increasingly apparent as the way businesses generate, store or distribute information has changed in today’s world of advancing technology. In the effort to gain insights on the processes and procedures relating to extracting digital evidences from digital devices, the Executive Secretariat of Competition Commission Brunei Darussalam (CCBD) Unit within the Ministry of Finance and Economy, paid a visit to Cyber Security Brunei (CSB) at Jalan E-Kerajaan, Gadong last week.
The visit commenced with brief presentations on the Competition Order, 2015 as well as on the functions and powers of CCBD conferred by the Order. With the mandate to promote and protect competition in the market of Brunei Darussalam, the CCBD through the enforcement of Competition Order, 2015 prohibits anticompetitive business conducts namely Anti-Competitive Agreements, Abuse of Dominant Position and Anti-Competitive Mergers. Prohibition on Anti-Competitive Agreements or cartel, which has come into force starting January 2020, refers to agreements between two or more businesses to collude in fixing price, sharing market, limiting supply or rigging bid.
As an enforcement body, the CCBD is provided with exhaustive powers to investigate anti-competitive cases including the powers to acquire information, 2 access to computerised data and enter premises with and without warrant. As the usage of digital technology is becoming more prevalent nowadays, the agreements between businesses to collude are likely to be reached via digital means, such as through email and messaging applications, and are likely to exist in digital forms instead of physical papers.
In many other jurisdictions, digital evidence gathering is a powerful tool for competition authorities in their fight to demonstrate cartels. While digital evidence in cartel cases can take many forms, some examples include e-mails confirming price coordination between businesses or records demonstrating communications to rig bid and agreeing on winning rotations of the bid. Such digitally-oriented agreements would require digital forensics investigation, including tools to access digital devices and expertise on extracting digital data, as highlighted by the Executive Secretariat of CCBD during the visit to the CSB.
Present to brief about CSB, including services provided by the National Digital Forensics Laboratory in CSB to law enforcement agencies, was the Lab Quality Manager of CSB.
It is hoped that the good working relationship established between the CCBD and the CSB could continue to support any future cooperation and collaboration in the enforcement work. The visit ended with a tour by the CSB officers, around the facilities within the National Digital Forensic Laboratory.