Is your WordPress site legal? Do you know if your site is breaking the law, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose products or services you promote or sell?
Online laws and regulations were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes goods and services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law will not protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, then you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online for information about “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – Better Business Bureau)
The new laws affect various business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, e.g. contextual ads
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your site does not display certain pages to visitors (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo won’t allow you to list digital products on their network, PayPal may shut down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook could suspend your applications, and you will not be allowed into most advertising or affiliate merchant networks.
If your online business is not in compliance, you could face a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
This article explains the importance of having a compliant website and lists simple ways to help make your website or blog compliant quickly and easily.
Is Your Site Breaking The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice in this article. You must do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements wherever you do business.
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be if these situations were to happen:
- A person suffers a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate gives someone skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not described exactly what you plan to do with it.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your site letting your site users know that you are an affiliate for the product you are promoting that you could earn an affiliate commission if they buy it.
- You didn’t spell out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Your visitors claim the testimonials on your site are false and decide to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult-related content and you didn’t take sufficient measures to restrict access by underage children.
Consider also these real case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card information to complete his offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone he does business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% had infringed at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were breaking at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were breaking 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 they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being a target of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
You need to ensure that your digital presence complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Companies
Complying with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You are expected to let your site users know that your business complies with all necessary laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you will interact with.
Google requires you to display legal information when using many of their services or features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue with your blog using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
Or promoting your products using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell digital products via places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add certain legal pages before your products are approved for selling via their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank product vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially when concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many business are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As documented on their website, this typically results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business interests by making sure that your website is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
Various sites provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. See the references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to create social networking applications that will integrate with your website, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of sites like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online as an affiliate marketer, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, or driving visitors to your site using Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to provide on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all third-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
Essential Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If your website or blog is falling short in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your website should help your site stay out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and 3rd-party providers, and avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to look into adding one or more of the pages listed below if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website provides money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Video/Audio Terms (e.g. if you allow media downloads on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding correct disclosure information to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs users that you will not be receiving any kind of payment for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to visitors that you will derive some form of financial or similar form of benefit if they act on your recommendation and buy through affiliate links on your site.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets readers know that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to users that you have been compensated in some way to write the post.
- 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 display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been created, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder via FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your server using FTP)
You can then add links to these pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu admin area …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the sidebar (or place them in the footer of your site) so that users have access to the information from all your pages …
(Display links to legal information on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your sidebar and footer in WordPress, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or going to websites like the ones shown below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
Alternatively, you can download a set of legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- 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 for every legal form you want to add 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 previously described.
Legal Pages – WordPress Plugins
As well as using copy & paste legal templates, you can keep things very simple using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress-powered websites and blogs you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider choosing a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to any of your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When the user agrees to your legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will display inside your main WordPress dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Type of Site menu)
Choose from a number of pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Pre-configured 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
Go here to learn more about using this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users containing over twenty customizable legal page templates for your web presence …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(Legal Suite Pro)
This plugin 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 & Conditions
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro – 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 one minute or less and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
Visit this site to learn more:
If hiring a lawyer to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing some type of basic legal protection on your site until you can afford professional assistance from a legal expert.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal page templates, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of business online, you need to make sure that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and any terms of service and guidelines provided by third-party sites that you may be promoting or using online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws intended to protect consumers, you’re breaking the law.
Being non-compliant 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with the law wherever your business is based.
Below is a time-saving list of sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB
- 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
- 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your site using simple and cost-effective methods, resources and plugins.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now