Preparing Your Website for the New Cookie Law

From May 26, a new EU law will go into effect requiring websites to change the way they use cookies. Now is the time to understand how this legislation will impact your online marketing and decide how your company’s website will comply.

Preparing for EU cookie legislation

The EU Cookie Legislation
A cookie is a small amount of data that is sent from a website to a computer or mobile phone to identify a user and their behaviour on the site.  Cookies track user activity so a site can provide tailored content, allow for additional functionality, such as social media sharing, and gather web traffic information.

In order to comply with the new regulation, websites must now inform visitors of any cookies used on the site and receive their consent before setting any cookies that the site does not need to function (for example Google Analytics).

Most cookies will fall under this new legislation, however there are some exceptions, including those designed for:

• Load-balancing
• Remembering shopping basket details on ecommerce sites
• Keeping user data secure, for example user identity information in online banking

The legislation will be monitored and enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). While the regulations do affect almost all websites, many businesses have actively chosen not to comply.


The Controversy
Preparing your website for the cookie law is simple enough, the debate is really about whether or not to comply at all.  Since it is expected that most people will not opt in to cookies, many companies and online marketers are concerned about the negative impact this law will have on information tracked through Google Analytics, as well as how useful a visitor will find a website.  Even the ICO has admitted that only 10% of its visitors have accepted its cookies since putting an announcement on its site, which is sure to have an effect on how the organisation understands its audience and how it proceeds with its online marketing.

Since companies are a bit wary in complying with this new law, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons for getting your website ready for the legislation.

Pros for complying:

• Avoiding any ICO penalties, which could include a fine of up to £500,000 for serious offenders
• Maintaining an open and honest relationship with your audience
• Showing that you take privacy seriously
• Auditing your website, which could lead to some well-needed housekeeping and better functioning of your site

Cons for complying:

• Less data from Google Analytics, making reporting unreliable
• Potentially less effective digital marketing campaigns
• Confusion and concern among your site’s visitors due to a sudden message about privacy and tracking
• Less information about your customers’ online activities, putting you at a disadvantage to competitors who are based outside the EU

There are some who argue that the ICO can’t actually enforce the new regulations and companies that do take some steps in compliance won’t have to worry about being penalised.  In a December press release the ICO stated, “The ICO will focus its regulatory efforts on the most intrusive cookies or where there is a clear privacy impact on individuals.” It’s no surprise then that many companies are waiting to see what the impact actually is and how the law will be enforced.


Our Thoughts
So, as a digital agency, what do we recommend companies do? In all honesty, the bare minimum.  Cookies are an important part of being able to provide an engaging user-experience and they are integral in understanding how your audience interacts with your site.  We join the ranks of the 82% of online marketers who don’t believe this legislation will benefit the web*.

That being said, we would suggest some steps in order to prepare for the deadline. We recommend all companies take an audit of how their website uses cookies and remove any that are unnecessary.  Also, familiarise yourself with the legislation and ICO guidelines so you know exactly what websites are required to do.

We recommend companies write an official cookie policy for their website that describes what cookies are used and what information is gathered from them.  This will inform users and put them at ease about how their information is tracked.

Ultimately the choice of asking for consent is up to you and either decision will have an effect on your online marketing.


This will be an interesting story to follow and we encourage all of you to make an informed decision on your company’s action regarding the new law. If you would like assistance in complying with the new legislation or want to discuss it further, please contact us 0116 254 9888.