EU Cookie DirectiveWith the shake up of EU cookie laws just weeks away, I thought it might be interesting to analyse what the UK’s largest online retailers are currently displaying on their sites.

I used Experian Hitwise and IMRG’s list of Top 50 online retailers in the UK and did a fairly unscientific experiment: launching at the homepage of the ten largest companies, I visited a couple of category pages and finally added one random item into my shopping basket – sufficient activity I’d expect to require a cookie.

The results?  Not a single one of the UK’s largest online retailers had any ‘obvious’ content relating to the new EU cookie ruling yet. I didn’t go off the beaten track and look for any specific content within each website’s privacy documents but I did actively look for content either in pop-ups, header or footer status bars or in warning bars and came across diddly squat, nada, nothing!

Perhaps savvy consumers will have read up on the new laws and actively search a site before using it to understand what cookies the site requires, but in my experience if I need my weekly shop, my iron had broken or I’d seen a killer pair of shoes, I’d need something pretty overt to grab my attention during the purchase.

That’s of course not to say that these online giants (Amazon, Argos, Apple, Tesco, Next etc.) aren’t preparing for 26 May but they may be choosing to delay deploying their strategy until the very last minute, conscious that competitors may seek to get the upper hand or because it may cause havoc with the user experience, sales, analytics or quite possibly, all three.

We’ve yet to see how this ruling will be enforced, if at all, and so it is highly likely that unless the Goliaths either take action or are caught breaking the new law, the Davids will seek to keep a low profile and hope the whole thing goes away.

With some reluctance, we believe that website owners should be taking some steps towards compliance by:

  • analysing how many cookies they have and what function they perform
  • stripping back any non-essential cookies
  • and including some additional information about cookies in a privacy document and ensuring this document is fairly prominent on their site

The EU seems to prefer ‘opt-ins’ over ‘opt-outs’ and general policy statements, but should the powers that be decide to enforce the regulations and threaten fines, then at the very least, the website owner will be in a position to act quickly to comply.

Whilst personally I believe these regulations go too far, all the noise, hype, paranoia (call it what you will) may have some positive effect if Joe Public realises that they can and should have more control over their own privacy settings.