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Is the use of a cookie wall allowed in European Countries?

If you spend time on the internet, you’ve probably come across a cookie wall or a paywall. In this post, we’ll explore whether, under the GDPR, using either method is legally allowed or not. Before we dive into the legal requirements, though, let’s go over what these methods actually are.

📌 The cookie wall is a mechanism where the user has only one option to access the website: accept the processing of the cookies. The cookie wall is prohibited.

Since this can affect publishers’ ability to earn, some within the industry have tried to make use of the current “grey area” to shift the landscape to one that is more profitable. One example of this is the so-called “paywall”.

📌 The paywall is a method where the user is given another option (for example, to pay or subscribe instead of giving consent for the use of cookies) to access the content.

Can I block access to my site if the user does not consent and be compliant with the GDPR?

While legislations may vary slightly between EU countries, in general, cookie walls are most likely not allowed as they can be considered contrary to the GDPR’s requirement for “freely given” consent.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB), in its guidelines for GDPR compliance, confirmed that the use of cookie walls does not constitute a valid way of obtaining consent for personal data processing in the EU.

On a member-state level, some countries such as Germany, Spain, Denmark, and Belgium state explicitly that they do not allow cookie walls. Other countries, such as the UK and Ireland, do not yet have definitive statements.

👉 The Italian DPA (Garante Privacy) stated in its latest Guidelines on cookies and other tracking tools that the cookie wall is unlawful except when the website provides the data subject with the option of accessing equivalent content or services without giving his or her consent to the storage and use of cookies or other tracking tools – which will have to be verified on a case-by-case basis.

Are paywalls an appropriate solution?

As regards paywalls, the Garante published a press release to inform that it’s analyzing this solution as implemented by some Italian publishers.

The Austrian and French DPAs have already indicated that the paywall system is a valid solution as long as the subscription to the site has a modest and fair cost so that it does not constrain the user’s free choice.

As it stands, the decision of whether paywalls can be compliant or not is still somewhat of a grey area. We will have to wait for a uniform approach from the DPAs to better assess the compliance of these mechanisms.

iubenda will, as always, be following this evolving case and will keep you updated with any new decisions.

💡To learn more about which EU cookie consent rules apply on a per-country basis, check out our Cookie Consent Cheatsheet here.

How iubenda can help you collect GDPR consent (while still monetizing your content!)

Our Cookie Solution has specific consent recovery features that give publishers the freedom to place the accept button in a subscription pop-up or other elements in cases you might choose to use methods like paywalls. Please get in contact with us for further information on this option.

Manage cookie consent with the Cookie Solution

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