Complying with the Cookie Law can seriously damage the health of your business!
You may have heard about the Cookie Law or you may not. If you want to find out what it is, I would like to direct you to an absolutely brilliant video that will tell you all you need to know. The link is here and I would suggest you view it before reading any further.
As you may have already seen, I’m in the middle of publishing a series of articles about the importance of growing your business in a recession and how having a high ranking on Google can dramatically affect the number of enquiries you can get. Well I have broken off from that because I think this issue is absolutely critical to the survival of many businesses and all that I write about improving your Google rankings will be utterly wasted if your businesses are striving to comply with this directive.
I’m going to give you my take on this with no holds barred. What you do with this information is entirely up to you but ,please, at least have a read and a think about it.
I am not a Eurosceptic by any stretch of the imagination and, thankfully, I am not the lone voice in the wilderness either but, with no much misinformation around, I want to explain my take on it in simple terms. This legislation is being enforced by the Information Commissioners Office, known hereafter as the ICO. These are the same people, by the way, who administer the Data Protection Act, of whom Access by Design are, of course, a signatory.
DISCLAIMER: I should also add that I am not a lawyer either and I therefore cannot give this advice as anything other than my own opinion. I may not be a qualified legal expert but (warning – shameless self-promotion about to start) I have 32 years computing experience, ranging from coding in Z80a assembler, BASIC, COBOL, ADABAS NATURAL, developing systems on Sun Mini computers, IBM 3090 mainframes (I was a Database Administrator at 21 years of age), integrating with PCs before mice were invented, let along Windows etc .. and then running extensive software testing and destruction projects. All of this was before the development of the World Wide Web and you can now add to that HTML, PHP, MYSQL, CSS, Linux and a load of other stuff. For the last few years, I have also been the MD of Access by Design, who create Accessible Responsive websites that our clients control fully blah bah blah.
We are also members of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers.
USE THE FOLLOWING ADVICE AT YOUR OWN RISK. CLIVE LOSEBY AND ACCESS BY DESIGN CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF EITHER FOLLOING OR NOT FOLLOWING THIS ADIVCE, IT IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY.
Right, enough caveats. Why I am so concerned about this that I am taking the trouble to post this out to all and sundry?
It is simple.
There is one minor problem with implementing such a technique. This is best demonstrated by looking at what happened with the ICO’s own website when they introduced such a device.
They saw a 90% reduction in visitors staying on their site.
Yes, that’s right. 90% reduction.
So, if we were to feed this figure back into the stats in my previous article it gets a bit scary. If you haven’t read the previous articles, just take this on board: if you are on page 1 of Google for a keyword, it would take 300 people coming to your website before getting an enquiry. If you have a Cookie message popping up on your website, the figure then jumps to 3000!
Putting the cookie message on your website is about the worst decision commercial decision you could take, ever. The only companies who will benefit from this debacle are those who are, right now, offering these popups to you, on a commercial basis.
Just to be clear, failing to comply with the Cookie Law puts you, in theory, at risk of a fine of up to £500,000. However, on the day before the law became enacted, the ICO suddenly amended its advice and started using phrases like “implied consent”, which basically meant that popups for most cookies were no longer necessary.
Cookie popups scare your customers away. Please don’t think that, in time, it will be OK because “everyone will have to do it”, it won’t. 6 countries in EU haven’t even brought in any legislation enforcing this in the first place. Not only that, it doesn’t apply to any country outside of the EU and, although we all like to think of our businesses being unique, we all have our competitors and they will be more than happy to entice your customers to come to their “non Cookie popup message” website instead of yours.
All that legitimate websites need to do is have some information about cookies in their terms and conditions and we will be contacting our clients with suggestions on what text to use.
There is a sting in the tail, however. Websites in this country come under the Disability Discrimination Act and have done for many years, although there has yet to be a prosecution in this country. Successful prosecutions in both the US and Germany, however, mean that it is only a matter of time. Most cookie popups break accessibility guidelines and websites using them, whilst trying to comply with the cookie law, lay themselves open to legal action on the grounds of accessibility!
I asked a couple of blind people (who test our websites) to go to the ICOs website and let me know whether there were any accessibility issues (I did not mention anything about the cookie law or anything else) and report back. One of them hadn’t even seen the cookie message in the first place! This means that the ICO’s own website appears to be in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act!
Making your website accessible makes commercial sense. Having automatic doors in a building makes it easier for people in wheelchairs to use. It also makes it easier people with babies in pushchairs, people with walking sticks, people carrying bags of shopping and so on. It is the same with websites. If your website is easy to navigate for one group of people, it will be easy for all other groups of people as well.
If your website is easy to use, you will get more business. It is not difficult to see the logic in that. Putting a cookie popup on your website will have the opposite effect.
If you want to comply with the law, put your resources into making sure your website is accessible and get more business. Do not put it into not a cookie popup or message that will do nothing but lose you business.
For those of you who want to know what cookies are on your own website, there is a great article here that shows you how: http://citizensheep.com/blog/2012/04/16/identifying-the-cookies-your-website-sets/