What Happens If I Don’t Comply With EU GDPR Cookie Consent?

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Are you curious about what happens if you don’t comply with EU GDPR cookie consent? Well, you’re about to find out.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a renowned privacy law that protects EU residents’ personal data, including data collected through cookies. As such, failing to observe the GDPR’s cookie consent requirements can attract severe penalties.

This article will discuss the consequences of violating the GDPR’s cookie consent obligations in more detail. We’ll also provide actionable tips to ensure your cookie consent practices are GDPR-compliant.

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

Europe’s GDPR imposes serious penalties on applicable businesses that fail to comply with its strict requirements, including regarding cookie consent.

If your business fails to observe the GDPR’s cookie consent standards, you may face legal issues, hefty fines, and other penalties depending on the severity of your offense.

Captain Compliance offers robust cookie consent management services that not only help you comply with the GDPR’s requirements but establish you as a responsible business in an increasingly privacy-conscious society.

Picture this: you run a simple online business with some consumers from the EU. You feel that since your business is small, you can avoid complying with the GDPR’s cookie consent standards. What’s the worst that could happen, right? Well, let’s just say it’s not something you should take lightly.

As an applicable business, ignoring the GDPR’s cookie consent rules will invite legal actions from both consumers and EU data protection authorities (DPAs).

This can ultimately result in massive fines that could ruin your business. Moreover, intense regulatory scrutiny from DPAs can disrupt your day-to-day operations and consume your time and resources.

But that’s not all. Your reputation can also suffer as consumers lose trust in your commitment to safeguarding their personal data. After all, negative media coverage and public backlash make it harder to attract and retain consumers.

In contrast, embracing cookie consent can work in your favor by helping build trust and strengthening consumer loyalty.

What Are The Fines for GDPR Violations?

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What Happens If I Don’t Comply With EU GDPR Cookie Consent (1).png

In the privacy landscape, fines are a powerful deterrent against non-compliance. Under the GDPR, there are two levels of fines for violations. The conditions for each level are determined by the severity of violations and their impact on consumers.

For example, failing to obtain consent before using cookies would likely result in a lower-level fine. Whereas not complying with the orders of a DPA would result in an upper-level fine.

Let’s examine each level in turn:

Lower-level fines

Lower-level fines are for less severe violations of the GDPR. These fines can reach up to €10 million or 2% of the company’s global annual turnover, whichever is higher.

According to the GDPR, lower-level violations include:

Not maintaining proper records of data processing activities

Collecting the personal data of minors under the age of 16 without parental consent

Failing to notify authorities about a breach within 72 hours of discovering it

Failing to conduct appropriate data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) before initiating high-risk data processing activities

Failing to appoint a data protection officer (DPO)

Neglecting employee training

Failure to implement sufficient data security safeguards

Upper-level fines

Upper-tier fines are for more serious violations of the GDPR. These fines can get as high as €20 million or 4% of the company’s global annual turnover, whichever is higher.

Upper-tier fines are levied on businesses for the following violations:

Processing personal data without a valid lawful basis

Ignoring or infringing upon individuals’ rights over their personal data

Processing personal data without obtaining explicit, informed, and specific consent from data subjects

Transferring personal data to countries outside the EU or EEA without implementing adequate safeguards

Violating the GDPR’s privacy principles

Processing sensitive personal data without meeting the strict conditions outlined in GDPR

It’s important to note that fines aren’t the only penalty under the GDPR. Non-compliant businesses may face other disciplinary actions, including warnings, restrictions, data deletions, and temporary or permanent bans on data processing.

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Under the GDPR, certain types of cookies are exempted from the need for consumer consent. These exemptions apply to cookies that are essential for the functioning of a website or provide a service expressly requested by consumers.

Below are the significant categories of cookies that don’t require consumer consent:

Strictly Necessary Cookies: These cookies enable core website functionality like page navigation, access to secure areas, and authentication. Since they’re necessary for a website to work correctly, they don’t require consumer consent. For example, the “add to cart” functionality on e-commerce websites relies on strictly necessary cookies to remember consumers’ inventories.

Load-Balancing Cookies: These cookies distribute website traffic evenly across multiple servers to prevent overloading and ensure site stability. They don’t collect personal data, so they’re exempt from consent requirements.

Media-Playback Cookies: Cookies that store technical data necessary to play audio or video content fall under this category. Unlike advertising cookies, they don’t track users’ online behavior across websites. As such, they’re exempt from consent obligations.

User-Input Cookies: Cookies that retain consumers’ information when they navigate different pages on a website (e.g., sign-up form data) are exempt from consent requirements.

Legally Required Cookies: Cookies that fulfill legal obligations like verifying age or complying with privacy and security laws are exempt from consent requirements. For instance, a cookie used by an alcohol-related website to ensure that visitors are of legal drinking age doesn’t require consent.

While these cookies are exempt from the GDPR’s consent requirements, you must still clearly explain their use in your website’s cookies policy and ensure they don’t collect unnecessary data beyond their intended purpose.

Remember, cookies used for analytics, advertising, or other non-essential purposes will require explicit consent under the GDPR.

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What Happens If I Don’t Comply With EU GDPR Cookie Consent (3).png

Ensuring compliance with the GDPR’s cookie consent requirements is vital to protect consumers’ privacy and avoid legal consequences.

To meet the GDPR’s strict standards, you’ll need to observe the following best practices:

Understand the types of cookies you use

Start by taking an inventory of your website’s cookies and categorizing them based on their functions. Identify which cookies are strictly necessary for basic website features and which are non-essential, such as advertising cookies.

The best way to achieve this is by conducting a comprehensive cookie audit.

Next, you need to set up a prominent and user-friendly cookie consent banner or pop-up that informs visitors about your website’s cookie usage and seeks explicit consent.

Your banner should appear on your homepage when a consumer visits your site for the first time. The banner should also clearly explain which cookies you use and provide options to either accept or decline them.

Give consumers the ability to choose which specific category of cookies they want to turn on or off. This way, they have greater control over their preferences and can personalize their consent choices.

In practice, a cookie settings panel that allows consumers to choose which cookies to allow or block is most effective.

Ensure no pre-ticked checkboxes

Under the GDPR, pre-ticked checkboxes in your cookie consent banner do not constitute valid consent. Your cookie consent checkboxes must be empty or unselected by default.

In other words, users must actively opt in to receiving cookies by checking the boxes themselves.

You need a detailed and easily accessible cookie policy that explains the following:

Which category of cookies your website uses

The purpose of each cookie category

The data your cookies collect

How users can manage or update their preferences

Any third-party involvement

For cookie consent to be valid under the GDPR, consumers must be able to revoke it at any time, and you must give them clear instructions on how to do so.

Your consent withdrawal process must be straightforward and clearly explained in your cookie policy and settings panel. Additionally, you must make it as easy to revoke consent as it was for consumers to give it.

To remain GDPR-compliant, you must periodically prompt users to review and update their cookie preferences to ensure their choices stay current and relevant.

You can do this by sending scheduled reminders to users, encouraging them to revisit their cookie settings and update their consent choices.

With the constant increase in data protection laws, many companies have been hit with substantial fines for non-compliance with cookie consent requirements.

Let’s briefly examine the most prominent ones:

Facebook (now Meta)

In 2022, Facebook was fined €60 million by the French data protection authority (CNIL) for making it difficult for French citizens to refuse cookies.


Sephora settled with the state of California for $1.2 million in 2022 for violating the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) cookie requirements.

In particular, Sephora failed to disclose that consumer data was being sold to third parties. Moreover, the beauty company didn’t provide a legitimate consent withdrawal option for California residents.


In January 2022, the French Supreme Administrative Court upheld a €100 million fine initially imposed on Google in March 2020 for violations related to cookie consent. Earlier that month, Google was also fined €150 million for making it difficult for users to refuse cookies on Google.fr.

In addition, Google had to pay roughly $50 million to South Korea’s Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) for not securing proper consent before collecting consumer data.


In 2023, France’s CNIL fined TikTok €5 million for issues with the video-sharing platform’s cookie-consent flow. Although TikTok worked to resolve the problem, the fine was still imposed.


In late 2022, Apple was fined €8 million by CNIL for failing to obtain consent from local French iPhone users before placing ad identifiers for personalized advertisements on their devices.

These cases illustrate the seriousness of cookie consent. Businesses of all sizes and from various industries can face significant penalties and damage to their reputation if they fail to comply with the relevant privacy laws.


Are you weighed down by the pressure of complying with stringent privacy laws like the GDPR? Don’t worry; Captain Compliance has got you covered!

We specialize in data privacy compliance services and can help you navigate the complexities of GDPR cookie consent. With our expert guidance, you’ll avoid fines, legal headaches, and reputation damage.

We can help you audit your website’s cookies, implement a user-friendly cookie consent banner, create a transparent cookies policy, and guide you every step of the way.

Ready to make your cookie practices GDPR-compliant? Get in touch today!


Ignoring GDPR cookie consent can lead to legal battles. The maximum fine for non-compliance under the GDPR is 4% of your business’s global turnover or 20 million euros.

Learn more about Corporate Compliance

Yes. Non-compliance with cookie consent standards puts you at risk of lawsuits from both users and data protection authorities. Protect your reputation and pocket with top-notch compliance services.

Read about GDPR Compliance Solutions

Don’t panic; we can fix it. You’ll need to act now by updating your website with GDPR-compliant cookie consent practices to show regulators that you take data privacy seriously.

Explore Data Protection Compliance Services

My website is small; does GDPR apply to me too?

If you have EU visitors and use cookies, the GDPR applies to you. Compliance is a must, regardless of your business’s size.

Interested in Outsourcing Compliance?

What if I’m based outside the EU, do I still need to comply?

If you target EU users or monitor their behavior, the GDPR applies to you, no matter where you’re based. Compliance is a global affair.

Read more on Compliance Solutions

Can I handle GDPR compliance on my own?

It’s risky but possible. The GDPR is complex, and mistakes can be costly. Therefore, engaging expert compliance services is the best option to guarantee better protection.

Check out effective Data Compliance Solutions

It’s not recommended to do so. Every website’s data processing practices are unique. It’s a best practice to draft your own policy based on your cookies and data processing activities.

Find out more about GDPR Data Mapping

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