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EU cookie law: only 23% of web users will opt into cookies

18th April 2012 Print

Less than a quarter of web users will happily opt in to cookies following the introduction of the EU ePrivacy Directive next month, according to a new survey by Econsultancy.

A survey of 1,097 web users found that 17% of people would definitely not accept cookies if prompted when arriving at a website. 60% said that they might accept them, depending on what they were used for. Only 23% will provide immediate consent.

The EU ePrivacy Directive will force UK companies to amend their websites, to provide better guidance to visitors about how cookies are used. Companies that do not comply can be fined up to £500,000.

Cookies have many different uses. For example, they can save the contents of a shopping cart (60% said this was ok), or track user experience via web analytics (only 35% were happy to accept these cookies). 21% of web users would authorise cookies that were used to improve the targeting of ads.

A bigger survey of 1,593 respondents found that nearly a third of web users don’t know what a cookie is, nor why websites use them.

There is a lot of confusion and concern over the new directive among UK businesses. Complying with the law may impact badly on the user experience.

The survey revealed that only 26% of visitors would provide consent to cookies that helped to make a website easy to use. 24% would ‘soldier on’, while 50% would use another website. That last statistic is particularly worrying for businesses.

Econsultancy has compiled a best practice guide to help steer companies down the path to compliance.

Graham Charlton, the report’s author, says: "The ECPR is a major - and somewhat unwelcome - challenge for online businesses in the UK. As the survey results show, persuading users to opt in to cookies will be very difficult.

“E-commerce sites that rely on analytics to improve the user experience and maximise conversion rates, and publishers which rely on advertising income in order to offer free content online face a serious challenge.

“The law could result in a loss of data, sales and ad income for many online businesses.”

Econsultancy’s five-step plan to help businesses to comply with the new law is as follows:

1. Carry out a cookie audit
2. Evaluate the privacy impact of each cookie
3. Carry out a business risk assessment
4. Figure out how you can inform users about cookies
5. Investigate methods for gaining consent

The guide is available for download at: