EU 'Cookie Law' law to be enforced in UK from 26th May 2012

Publish Date: 2012-05-09

eu cookie law shopping cart ecommerce compliance If you sell products or services to customers in European Union (EU) countries, even if your business is based outside the EU, you'll need to comply with the EU e-Privacy Directive or the 'EU cookie law'. Failure to comply in the most serious cases could result in a fine.

The ShopIntegrator shopping cart gives you an ecommerce solution which complies with the EU cookie law.

What is the European Union (EU) e-Privacy Directive?

The EU e-Privacy Directive became law in 2011 and will start being actively enforced in the UK from the 26th May 2012 onwards.

It's known as the 'cookie law' because it requires all users of a website to actively opt-in to accepting browser cookies. You must gain the users express consent before you can issue each cookie once you have clearly informed the user what type of cookies you, or any third party service you are using, are going to issue and the purpose of each cookie.

What is a web browser cookie?

Cookies are small text files stored within your browser, think of them as 'bite sized' pieces of information. The website that creates the cookie can read back the information stored in the cookie when you move around their website or return to the website at a later date. Cookies are typically used for various reasons, such as a way for a website to remember button presses, logins, shopping cart contents, whether pages have been read, your site preferences e.g. your preferred language setting for a site etc.

You're not alone if you were thinking "What are cookies?". In February 2011, the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport commissioned Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) to research the affect of the EU cookie legislation and as part of that, they surveyed 1,000 people who were considered to be cabable computer and Internet users. Of those people survey:

  • 13% fully understood how cookies worked
  • 37% had heard of internet cookies but did not know how they work
  • 37% did not know how to manage cookies on their computer

What countries does the EU cookie law apply to?

ShopIntegrator powers ecommerce website's around the world, so for those less familiar with which coutries are in the EU:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Is your ShopIntegrator shopping cart affected by the EU cookie law?

You'll be pleased to know that we've reviewed various documents issued by the UK Information Commissioner's Office that give guidance on the EU Cookie directive, as well as reviewing other resources on the topic from across the web. Following our analysis, your ShopIntegrator shopping cart complies with the EU cookie law. The following are relevant extracts from page 9 of the UK Information Commissioner's Office guidance1 on the EU Cookie directive:

"Exceptions from the requirement to provide information and obtain consent:
There is an exception to the requirement to provide information about cookies and obtain consent where the use of the cookie is strictly necessary for the provision of an information society service requested by the subscriber or user.

This exception is likely to apply, for example, to a cookie used to ensure that when a user of a site has chosen the goods they wish to buy and clicks the 'add to basket' or 'proceed to checkout' button, the site 'remembers' what they chose on a previous page. This cookie is strictly necessary to provide the service the user requests (taking the purchase they want to make to the checkout) and so the exception would apply and no consent would be required."

The ShopIntegrator shopping cart only remembers web browser session based information about the user strictly for the purpose of remembering what the user has chosen to buy from your website as they move between the website pages. This is therefore strictly necessary for servicing the users requests when they click on your shop's ecommerce buttons. Following the above guidance of the UK Information Commissioner's Office, this falls in to the "Exceptions from the requirement to provide information and obtain consent" and therefore no consent is required in this scenario to comply with the EU Cookie directive.

ShopIntegrator customers are advised to inform their own website users, in your own site's cookie and privacy policy, about the use of ShopIntegrator as a third party shopping basket service and how it only uses cookies which are strictly necessary to allow the shopper to purchase goods they have requested from you and so does not require their consent.

For further information and guidance on the EU cookie legislation refer to: ""

Dispelling some myths about how to get around the EU cookie law

My business is based outside the EU so I can avoid the EU cookie legislation when selling to EU countries

If your website is designed for the European market or you also sell your products and services to customers in EU, then you will need to also comply with the EU cookie law, even if your business is based outside of the EU.

As an EU business, if I host my web servers outside the EU I can avoid the EU cookie legislation

It doesn't matter where your web servers are based, if your sales are to EU customers, you will still need to ensure your website's visitors are informed about the cookies you issue and that you comply with the EU cookie law.

I don't have to do anything to comply with the EU cookie law because you can wait for web browser software to solve the problem in the future

Waiting for web browser software to come up with a solution is not a valid reason to avoid taking action now to comply with the EU cookie law.

How to view what cookies a web page has created?

The way we like to look at what cookies a web page has created is using a Firefox web browser add-on. If you don't have Firefox installed, you can install Firefox free from here:

Once you've installed Firefox, install the Bitstorm View Cookies Firefox add-on by visiting the Bitstorm wesite using your Firefox web browser and then clicking the 'Install View Cookie' button on the add-on creator's page here:

When you've installed the View Cookies Firefox add-on, you will see a new pink Cookie tab in the Page Info dialog box. To access the Page Info, right-click on the webpage and select View Page Info from the pop-up menu, where you'll see a new pink Cookie tab available to you in Page Info. Alternatively, to open the Page Info dialog box, select Page Info under the Firefox browser Tools menu (press the Alt key on a PC to see the menu bar as it is hidden by default in the later versions of Firefox).

1 UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) guidance taken from Version 2, published 13 December 2011.

Other Ecommerce News Stories