Businesses that run websites aimed at UK consumers are being given up to 12 months by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to "get their house in order" before enforcement of the new EU cookies law begins.

The UK government has revised the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which come into force in the UK tomorrow (26 May), to address a new EU Directive. The regulations demand that UK businesses and organisations running websites in the UK need to get consent from visitors to their websites in order to store cookies on users’ computers.

Businesses and organisations in the UK use cookies for analysing and remembering consumer browsing habits and helping to store customer payment details when buying products online.

The ICO recently published guidance on how firms could address the cookie regulations. Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said of the 12 month's grace, “I have said all along that the new EU rules on cookies are challenging.

“Browser settings giving individuals more control over cookies will be an important contributor to a solution. But the necessary changes to the technology aren’t there yet."

Information Commissioner publishes code for sharing personal information

He said: "We're giving businesses and organisations up to one year to get their house in order. This does not let everyone off the hook. Those who choose to do nothing will have their lack of action taken into account when we begin formal enforcement of the rules."

To help address the cookie rules the ICO's own website now has a header bar giving users information about the cookies it uses and choices about how to manage them.

Andreas Edler, managing director at hosting firm Hostway UK, was not confident about the government and ICO strategy. He said: “The guidelines produced by the ICO seem to pose more questions than answers. It is still unclear how the law applies to the average small business or what changes users need to make in order to comply with the legislation."

Edler asked: "Why implement a law when you have only just started to tell people what they can do to abide by it? In our opinion, the introduction of the law should be delayed until such a time as people can be reasonably expected to comply with it.”

Roger Llewellyn, CEO of data analytics and data warehousing firm Kognitio, said: "A code of practice may seem like a restriction but it gives online marketers and advertisers an excellent chance of avoiding any more stringent regulation. They need to be sure that they are being open and explicit when detailing exactly what personal data can and will be used for. Otherwise they may find that they will be in a very tenuous position."