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Website Cookies

Website Cookies

Since May 2011, websites operating within the EU have been obliged to get consent from users for any non-essential cookies. Although this issue is somewhat technical, as will be explained below, it’s designed to enhance privacy and supplement data protection laws.

What are cookies?

When you visit many websites, a small file is automatically stored on your computer, via your browser (such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome). This file is called a “cookie”. It can have a variety of functions, some of which are necessary in order to provide functionality of the website, particularly in the case of an e-commerce site with a shopping basket. However, many cookies are either deployed to collect statistics on the behaviour of visitors (known as analytics) and others are used to facilitate targeted advertising. Have you ever been looking at a product on a shopping site and later gone to a completely different website, only to be shown an advert for this exact product? This is down to the use of cookies in targeted advertising.

What is the cookie law?

European Directive 2002/58 on Privacy and Electronic Communications, implemented in the UK by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011, requires website owners to gain consent from users before using non-essential cookies (ie. those used for analytics or advertising). In practice, this is pretty tricky because, by visiting a website which uses cookies, website users will already be exposed to the cookies. Technically, it’s pretty much impossible to turn off cookies for specific users - as doing so would require the use of cookies themselves! But you can rely on “implied consent” which basically means that if you warn a user that cookies exist on your website, by continuing to use it they are consenting to their use. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) which enforces the cookie law in the UK, can leverage fines of up to £500,000 on companies which fail to comply with the rules.

So how do I implement the cookie law on my website?

There is no specific set way which you must follow in order to gain consent for using cookies. Many websites use subtle banners or icons which note that, by continuing to use the website, you are automatically giving (implied) consent for the use of cookies. However, you should also provide instructions on how the user can turn off cookies within their computer browser if they wish to browse your site without the use of cookies. This can be done by via a relevant cookies policy which may also detail how the cookies are being used.

We have a range of up-to-date website cookies policies which can be used by your business and adapted to your needs. These can be downloaded from our Business Documents Folder. Click on the relevant links below for further information.

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