Croatian Competition Agency (the Agency, CCA) hosted on 24 September 2015 the first regional conference on IT forensics and its role in the work of competition authorities.
Setting of fines is a final phase in a proceeding handled by a competition authority. In order to get there, there needs to be a well-based case supported by evidence. This is why Croatian Competition Agency defined its priority in collecting digital evidence during dawn raids and educating its staff in elementary and advanced IT forensics. The aim of the conference was, therefore, to share experiences and lessons learned, and discuss future plans or possible obstacles that the relevant authorities might be having in the area of collecting evidence in anti-trust cases.
This half-day conference was organised in two panel discussions where experts from the CCA and guest speakers from Italian, Austrian and Slovenian competition authorities presented technical and legal aspects (including EU case law and human rights concerns) of collecting digital evidence from the point of view of experienced enforcers. Following discussions included participants from the competition authorities of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia, as well as from Croatian law enforcement bodies (like Ministry of the Interior).
Although this tool is available to the Croatian Agency since 2003, for a long time it could not be used because of the insufficient level of technical and expert resources which are needed for the successful implementation of inspections.
However, two years ago, following the decision of the Competition Council to put a stronger emphasis on cartel prosecution, the Agency has launched an initiative for the purchase of modern equipment for digital forensics. The Ministry of Finance immediately recognized the importance of the initiative and approved additional funds in CCA’s budget for the procurement of the necessary forensic tools. At the same time, a part of the expert team began with intensive and systematic training in the field of digital forensics in order to be able to effectively use the procured equipment.
The result of all these activities undertaken so far is very concrete: the increased number of dawn raids carried out by the CCA in the framework of the proceedings of establishing restrictive agreements. In 2014 three dawn raids were carried out, and this trend continues in 2015