New Cookie Guide

April 1, 2012

Following an almost year-long process, on 2 April, the ICC UK launched its guidance to help companies comply with new EU rules on the use of cookies.

The ICC UK Cookie Guide—which has been developed in close consultation with a range of industry experts—is designed to help web site operators give consumers the information they need to make informed choices about the use of cookies.

The Guide sets out several categories of cookies that web site operators can use to define the purpose and description of their own cookies. These categories are linked to suggested user notices and consent language that explain—in easy to understand language—what those cookies do and why web site operators and others want to use them.

The ICC UK guidance is designed to be used with the range of technical solutions that are being developed and implemented by business. The language contained in the Guide can be used word-for-word or adapted to suit particular business needs.

The ICO has welcomed the launch of the Guide. David Evans, Group Manager for Business and Industry at the ICO, said: ‘[The] ICC UK guidance provides organisations with a good starting point from which they can work towards full compliance. At the ICO we have always been clear that organisations need to provide visitors to their website with enough information to enable individuals to make an informed choice on whether they wish for cookies to be placed on their device. The ICC UK guidance provides useful information on how organisations can achieve this and reinforces the ICO’s key message that giving users better and more consistent information will make it easier to gain their consent. We are almost at the end of the year-long lead-in period and it is vital that organisations start demonstrating that they are moving towards compliance.’

Robert Bond, Partner at Speechly Bircham, who co-ordinated the drafting of the Cookie Guide in his role as Chairman of the ICC UK’s E-Business, IT and Telecoms Committee commented:

‘The impact of the new law is far-reaching and incredibly onerous for website owners. From 26 May all UK websites will need a mechanism to ensure they inform users and gain express consent from users before all but “strictly necessary” cookies can be activated, and as almost every website uses cookies, this will affect all UK companies. There is therefore an urgent need for businesses to take the necessary steps to comply – doing nothing will be no defence.

In addition to a potential investigation, naming and shaming and up to £500,000 fines by the ICO, failure to comply with the new rules could lead to action from consumer groups and on-going investigations into other data protection breaches.

The Government has made it clear that it is up to businesses to self-regulate and self-audit in relation to the new law, and the ICC UK Cookies Guide is the only available source of clear and informative advice developed by industry to help website operators forge open relationships with their users, which was a key intention behind the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.’