One of the worst situations a website owner can find themselves in is to break the law.
Internet laws and regulations are designed to protect consumers and apply to any person who sells, markets or promotes products and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law won’t protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, then you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the (US based) BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws affect various business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
Without certain legal pages on your site (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank will not allow you to list digital products, PayPal may shut down your account, Facebook will reject your applications, and you won’t be allowed to enroll in various advertising and affiliate marketing networks.
Additionally, you could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your website or blog(s) may be required to comply with certain legalities according to laws that govern businesses online, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose services or products you may be offering online, and that there are solutions for WordPress that can help your site become compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Is Your Site Breaking Rules Or Regulations?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice. As previously stated, this article is designed only to help make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal policies in accordance with the laws and regulations governing your business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of 3rd-party companies whose products or services you recommend on your website
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A customer suffers a heart attack after they use your online workout program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate gives people allergic reactions.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement letting subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you plan to do with their details.
- Someone copies your content and puts it up on their own website.
- You haven’t informed your site users that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re marketing and may earn financial benefits if they buy it.
- You did not spell out the terms of your refund and return policies.
- Your visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are all fake and decide to sue you because of it.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your site contains adult content and you didn’t take appropriate measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider also the documented examples of costly compliance breaches below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up their personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer received a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping UIDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% had infringed at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in breach of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in breach of at least three of Google’s policies. Although the website owners could technically be sued by Google, more than likely what could happen, is that they would be issued notices or lose access to the Google program with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could become exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords User
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your online business remains legally compliant.
Complying With Third-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
All the big companies and government trade regulatory agencies emphasize the need and importance of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You are obligated to let your site users know that your business complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your site, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you interact with online.
Google requires websites to display legal information if using their products. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your sites with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
Or promoting your services via Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell digital products with places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages to your website before your products can be approved for selling via their networks …
(Policy requirements product vendors selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to display clear disclaimers and policies on your website, especially if you plan to sell online using product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Comply
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this typically prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute website owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
You can find many online business resources that can provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references and links to useful resources to some of these at the end of this article …
(It’s important to structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to create social networking applications for your site, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or using Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your web site is falling short in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your website will help you stay out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and external providers, and even help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider including one or more of these pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides information about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right type of content disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets site users be aware that you will not receive any type of compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets users know that you may derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets readers be aware that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to site users that you have been compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets visitors know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legal folder to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. using FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then add a link to your pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu admin area …
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to your visitors. You can insert these into the sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website or blog) so that visitors have access to legal information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages to users on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer using widgets here:
Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms – Attorney-prepared legal forms)
Another option is to download a package of legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a quick search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates new FTC guidelines that came into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use: with inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new page on your website for every legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your web server as described previously.
For more information, go here:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using cut & paste legal templates, you can simplify things using WordPress plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress websites and blogs that you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you a great deal of time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using WP Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like every other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when user agrees to your terms.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will be added to your dashboard section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites, niche websites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Page Type)
Select from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
Legal page templates include:
- Linking Policy
- External Links Policy
- Terms and Conditions
- Refund Policy
- Affiliate Disclosure
- Affiliate Agreement
- Earnings Disclaimer
- Antispam Policy
- DoubleClick DART Cookies Policy
- Disclaimer Template
- FTC Disclosure Statement Template
- Medical Disclaimer Template
- Testimonials Disclosure – As per FTC guidelines
- Amazon Affiliate Disclosure Template
- DMCA Policy Template
- California Privacy Rights Policy Template
- Digital Goods Refund Policy Template
- Blog Comments Policy Template
- Newsletter Subscription Policy and Disclaimer Template
- FTC Disclaimer Widget
Visit the plugin site for more details about using this useful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a complete compliance and disclaimer solution for your site …
Go here to learn more about this plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro)
Legal Suite Pro lets you easily install professionally-written legal pages such as:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Social Media Disclosure
- Medical Disclaimer
- Terms of Service
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin – Professionally-written legal forms)
- Drag & Drop FTC Disclaimer Widget: Add an FTC Disclaimer to any WordPress sidebar or widget area.
With just one-click you can install almost all of the legal pages your site needs and these professionally written legal pages can be created in your theme and/or as a standalone page outside of your theme.
The plugin developers secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them into a plugin that can be installed quickly on any WordPress site. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell).
If using the services of lawyers to create your legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic type of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional legal services.
We want your website to be safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal page templates, or a legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator Software allows you to easily generate necessary legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you make money online (or are planning to), you need to ensure that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and any terms of service and guidelines for 3rd-party services and products that you may decide to promote or advertise online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws intended to protect consumer rights, you’re breaking the law.
Non-compliance puts you at risk of suffering both financial losses and the loss of your reputation. Why risk your money and reputation, when you can protect yourself so inexpensively?
Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice on our website. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law wherever your business is based.
Below is a time-saving list of additional sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your business requires to stay compliant and meet legal obligations:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program
- Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising
- Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act
- CAN-SPAM Act Guide
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule
- FTC Regulatory Review Web Page
- FTC Rules and Guides Currently Under Review
- The Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force – Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework
- FTC Staff Report: Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising
- FTC Final Guides Governing Endorsements and Testimonials
- US Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
In Addition …
- Google Analytics Help – Policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features
- Google AdSense Program Policies Explained
- AdSense Help – Required Content
- Google AdWords – Information Collection And Use
- ClickBank – Creating Your First Product
- Facebook Platform Policies
We hope this article has helped you understand why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly add legal pages to your WordPress website.
"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya