Commercial agents and cookie law

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Commercial agents and cookie law

On the 26 May 2012, the deadline for website owners to be compliant with the E-Privacy Directive, or EU Directive 2009/136/EC legislation expired. Now, chartered surveyors and commercial agents could be forgiven for not recalling the Directive under its official term, but the chances are that all would have heard about the ‘Cookie Law’.

Heard of it or not, if your company is not compliant with this directive you could face fines of up to £500,000.

What is A Cookie?

I hear a chorus of chartered surveyors and commercial agents across the country shouting, that very question.

Well like Hansel and Gretel, Cookies are little tags of information that act like breadcrumbs when you visit and return to a website. The third party website that you visit will place them on your computer or mobile device. They then help with preferences, logins, online forms and stuff that enhance the user experience when you return to the site. Some cookies are also used to monitor website performance and user behaviour. Finally there are cookies that capture users information to use for targeted advertising.

Why The Law?

The law, which is an update to the 2003 Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations Act is designed to protect website users from unwarranted intrusion. Website owners therefore need to make the user aware and gain their consent before placing what is deemed as a “non-essential” cookie on their system.

“Essential” are those Cookies used for shopping carts, checkouts and online banking services. However, if your website uses Cookies for advertising, social networking, marketing or analytics then these would be classed as “non-essential”. In this instance you will need to have some mechanism to gain user consent.

Commercial Agents Beware

Many in the commercial sector may not think that this legislation refers to them, but consider that even if your website simply uses Google analytics you will need to make users aware and then gain their consent.

Furthermore, if your website carries listings of commercial property, depending on the functionality that is used there is a good chance that Cookies are being employed.

In three simple searches for commercial agents in Hertfordshire, Worcestershire and Devon respectively, I found that on average only 4 out of 10 chartered surveyors were compliant with the Cookie Law.

How To Comply

There are various ways that you can do this, but probably the most convenient is to have a little pop-up message giving the user the opportunity to grant or refuse permission. If you have any questions about this or whether your site is breaking the new law, get in contact and we can help.

Philip Burrows, Marketing Consultant