EU Cookie Law: What you need to know

May 20, 2012

From May 26th this year, a new EU law will come into force, meaning that all websites hosted in the UK will need to ask visitors for consent before placing certain types of “cookies” onto their computer. This will have a major impact on many of our customers, so we’ve prepared a guide to the new EU Cookie Law, and provided a suitable solution to make sure your website is compliant.

What are cookies, and will my website use them?

Cookies are text files that websites place on visitors’ computers to store a range of information, usually specific to that visitor – or rather the device they are using to view the site – like the browser or mobile phone. They were created to overcome a limitation in web technology. Web pages are ‘stateless’ – which means that they have no memory, and cannot easily pass information between each other. So cookies provide a kind of memory for web pages.

Cookies allow you to login on one page, then move around to other pages and stay logged in. They allow you to set preferences for the display of a page, and for these to be remembered the next time you return to it. Cookies can also watch the pages you visit between sites, which allows advertisers to build up a picture of your interests. Then when you land on a site that shows one of their adverts – they can tailor it to those interests. This is known as ‘behavioural advertising’.

Unless your website uses simple html web pages, the chances are you use cookies in some way or another, and every page you visit writes cookies to your computer and receives them back from it.

 What is the EU Cookie Law?

In May 2011 a European Union law was passed stating that websites that leave non-essential cookies on visitors’ devices have to alert the visitor and get acceptance from them. This law applies to both individuals and businesses based in the EU regardless of the nationality of their website’s visitors or the location of their web host. It is not enough to simply update your website’s terms and conditions or privacy policy.

The deadline to comply with the new EU cookie law is 26th May 2012. Failure to do so means you can be fined up to £500,000.

What are ‘non-essential cookies’?

Non-essential cookies are basically those which aren’t required for the website to function. For example, if cookies are needed for a customer to check out and buy products, that is considered an essential cookie.

Examples of non-essential cookies include (but aren’t limited to) those from analytics, advertising and affiliate networks such as Google Analytics, Google Adsense, and all affiliate programs. The vast majority of websites drop non-essential cookies, and it’s more than likely that your website contains a mix of essential and non-essential varieties.

How can I comply with the new regulations?

We’ve put together a Cookie Policy widget that you’re free to use on your websites regardless of where or how they are hosted. This, in conjunction with updating your website’s privacy policy, allows you to comply with the EU cookie law quickly and easily. Simply add the following code to your website before the </body> tag;

Dark Version

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href=""/>
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="" read_more=""></script>

Light Version

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href=""/>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href=""/>
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="" read_more=""></script>