New EU rules for online 'cookies'


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As of 26 May, new rules on using online cookies are expected to enter into force across the EU in the context of the revised EU ePrivacy Directive. Given the lack of clarity about these new rules and patchy implementation at national level, marketers will face considerable uncertainty about the precise obligations advertisers face in every market over the comings months.

The key changes introduced by the EU Directive, impacting marketers, are:

A new consent requirement for cookies: The new rules require EU Member States to ensure that data controllers seek online users' consent when placing certain kinds of cookies on their computers and similar devices. Users must also be given specific information on the purposes of the intended data collection in conjunction with giving their consent. EU regulators regard online behavioural advertising (OBA) as one of the types of data collection operations falling within the scope of the new rules.

Exceptions for cookies that are “strictly necessary”: The new rules do not apply to cookies which are “strictly necessary” to the operation of a service a user has requested, for instance cookies to remember language preferences or the content of shopping baskets on e-commerce websites.

WFA and its ad industry partners are in parallel to these developments continuing the roll-out of a European self-regulatory framework for Online Behavioural Advertising aimed at reducing the regulatory pressure for a prior 'opt-in' consent requirement in relation to how OBA cookies are used. These on-going self-regulatory efforts on OBA have been developed in close consultation with the European Commission and have been recognised by the European Commission in its guidance to Member States as a “means to effective application” of the new rules.

WFA will continue to closely monitor progress and keep members informed as the situation becomes clearer.

WFA has provided members with guidance for how to tackle ePrivacy compliance across Europe. Please log in to access the guidance note below. For more information please contact Malte Lohan:

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