On August 24, 2011, France’s new law concerning electronic communications (Ordonnance n° 2011-1012 du 24 août 2011 relative aux communications électroniques, or the “Ordinance”) [Link to PDF] came into force.  The Ordinance implements the provisions of the revised EU Directive 2002/58/EC (the “e-Privacy Directive”) with respect to the French Data Protection Act of 1978, the French Postal and Electronic Communications Code and the French Consumer Protection Code.  Specifically, the Ordinance amends the existing legal framework concerning cookies and introduces an opt-in regime for the use of cookies.

The Ordinance requires data controllers to obtain prior opt-in consent from subscribers or users of electronic communication services before installing cookies on users’ computers or other equipment.  Prior opt-in consent is not required if the cookies will be used to facilitate online communication or are necessary to provide an online service.  Before obtaining prior opt-in consent, data controllers also must inform individuals about how the cookies will be used and how a person may opt out after giving consent.

The Ordinance specifies that opt-in consent for cookies may be obtained via user-controlled settings on the relevant device.  This implies that user consent may be inferred from web browser settings that allow cookies to be installed on a computer.

View the Ordinance (in French). [Link to PDF]  For further information on the new legal framework in France, please contact Olivier Proust in the Brussels office of Hunton & Williams.