Europe's refuseniks are in no rush to eat their cookies - fine or no fine

Despite the threat of a substantial fine that increases every day they defy the EC, five EU countries appear to be in no rush to make opt-in cookies part of national law

In an act of damage control, the Polish minister of Administrative Affairs and Digitalisation Michal Boni has met with European Commission's VP, Neelie Kroes. The reason is clear: Poland is facing multiple and potentially hefty fines from the European Commission for non-compliance to EU regulations.

Last month, the EC announced it had asked the European Court of Justice to fine five countries for failing to implement a European directive on cookies, which was due to come into force across Europe in May 2011.

Should the court find in the EC's favour, the fine imposed would increase daily for each and every day that passes without the directive becoming law. Yet of the five countries - Poland, Slovenia, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands - none have changed their national laws yet, despite the threat of financial penalties.

In short, the EU wants the countries' websites to adopt an opt-in model for cookies, whereby consumers must agree to cookies being installed. Cookies can however still be installed without user consent if it is vital for an online service to work properly: for example, cookies necessary for an online shop's 'add to basket' functionality to work does not need to show additional dialogue boxes before they can be installed.

Of the five countries threatened with legal action in the Court of Justice, Poland is facing the heftiest fine: €112,190.40 for every day that the regulations set out in the directive don't become law. But will Poland really pay dearly for sluggish implementation of EU regulations?

The court first has to confirm the countries have not taken appropriate steps, so there is some breathing room. The directive itself is quite vague, especially on the level of user consent that is needed before cookies can be installed. The Netherlands is on track to start to enforce its version of the directive (which actually goes further than the European norm) from 1 January 2013, for example. Since that process is already ongoing, the court might be willing to show some forgiveness.

And what about Poland, the largest country that faces the biggest fine? A short statement from the Ministry of Administrative Affairs (yes, Poland has its own Jim Hacker) is all we get so far. The ministry argues that it is on track implementing the whole thing, but won't give any details on its timetable.

The fact that Poland faces other fines for non-compliance tells us that it should get its act together. The country also faces a €67,000 fine a day for non-compliance to waste management rules,And last week, Poland faces another daily €112,190.40 euro fine for lacking laws protecting viewers from subliminal advertising and incitement of hate. Boni has a lot to discuss with Kroes.