U.K. retailers warned EU cookie legislation is coming

LONDON — Online retailers in the U.K. are being warned that they must act now to address new EU cookie legislation, or risk damaging user experience and constraining opportunities for customer conversion when the law comes into force later this year.
The so-called “cookie law” is an amendment to the European Union’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, and requires anyone running a Web site to get explicit opt-in consent from their visitors before deploying cookies.
According to Web site testing company Maxymiser Ltd., online retailers in particular will struggle to comply with the new legislation, because cookies are critical components of online marketing.

 “With e-commerce businesses having spent millions of Euros in removing website usability barriers, enhancing the online customer experience and optimising real-estate positions, the EU cookie legislation seems to put a pause button on marketers’ optimisation, analytics and attribution efforts,” said Peter Ellen, head of product at Maxymiser.
Cookies are small sections of code that websites put on a user’s computer so that they can remember something. They are used primarily to enable websites to remember users’ preferences, but can also be used to track consumers’ browsing behaviour for targeted advertising purposes.
The technology has been treated with some hostility since the Phorm controversy in 2006 and 2007, when British Telecom was discovered to be secretly trialling the behavioural advertising technology. Phorm uses tracking cookies to build a profile of users’ habits and interests based on the websites they visit and then assign targeted ads.

The EU cookie law gives people greater choice about whether or not they want their online behaviour to be tracked. The law actually came into force last year, but the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) decided to give U.K. businesses 12 months to “get their house in order” before enforcement began.
Ellen explained that, in order to comply with the law, online retailers need to make sure their websites include an appropriate method for attaining user consent. However, they also need to check that this does not break the Web site or damage user experience.
“Finding out which approach works and assessing the right wording and design elements will be a critical part of ensuring ICO demands are met without affecting the bottom line,” said Ellen. “But brands need to act now to put those tests in place so the results can be acted on before May 2012.”
(From Techworld)

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