Is your website compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose products or services you do business with?
Internet laws and regulations were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who sells, markets or promotes goods and services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t excuse you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for commercial gain, then you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the Better Business Bureau, also known as BBB. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
These laws affect various online business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, e.g. Google AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your business online is not compliant, you could end up facing a multitude of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this guide is to help make you aware that your website(s) are required to comply with legal requirements, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be using online, and that there are solutions for WordPress users that can help your website become fully compliant, such as the tools discussed further below.
Does Your Website Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all legal requirements in your country or region.
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Consider for a minute what the implications to your business would be if the following were to occur:
- Someone suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online workout program.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate marketer gives someone an allergic reaction.
- You’ve told subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you have not clearly spelled out what you will do with the information you have collected.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your site informing your site visitors that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you will derive a commission if visitors buy through your link.
- You have not spelled out the conditions of your return policies.
- Visitors claim that your testimonials are fake and decide to sue you because of it.
- You didn’t disclose that you received a free copy of the product you reviewed.
- Your website includes adult information and you haven’t taken sufficient measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider too these real case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up personal information (including credit card info to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, they’re now required to issue everyone he does business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped 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 using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% were in breach of 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% had breached 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 with warnings 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 easily be exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your online business complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
All of the big websites and government agencies that regulate trade in most countries emphasize the need and importance of complying with the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You are obligated to let your site visitors know that your website complies with laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you engage with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires websites to display certain information if using many of their products and service. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your online properties using Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell digital products with merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add a number of legal pages before your products are approved for sale in their network …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank digital product vendors)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and statements to visitors, especially concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many business are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting site owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. you should protect your business by ensuring that your site is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
You can find many online business resources that can provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. We provide a number of references and links to useful resources at the end of this article …
(You must structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Apps Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you plan to create social networking applications that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with information about various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products on your site using affiliate marketing, or monetize your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or using Google AdWords pay-per-click ads 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 their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Essential Legal Pages To Add To Your Site
If your website or blog falls short in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your site will help your business stay out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and third-party providers, and avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Website Disclaimers
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to look into including any of these legal pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general health or medical information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs visitors that you will not receive for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers know that you may be compensated if they buy through your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Discloses to your visitors that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product you’re reviewing by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Informs your readers that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs your visitors 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.
Adding Legal Pages Content To Your Website
Ideally, you should consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage 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 legal directory to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add a link to these legal pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and display clearly to visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your sidebar (or the footer of your site) to ensure that users can access the information from every page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar and footer using widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or visiting websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
For more details, go here:
Another option is to download a package of legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC guidelines that came into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page for each legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described earlier.
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using legal templates, another option is to use a plugin.
Here are some legal WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider installing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the benefits of using the WP Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very 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.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Content editor lets you edit all legal pages like any other page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when users agree to your legal terms.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will display inside your main WP dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Page type drop down menu)
Choose from various built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – Built-In 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 to learn more about this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a complete compliance & disclaimer solution for your digital presence …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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 of Service
- 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers into a plugin that can be installed quickly on any WordPress site. You can have legal pages 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.
For more information, go here:
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford professional legal services.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-drafted legal documents, or a WordPress plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you make money online (or are planning to), you need to make sure that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service (TOS) required by third-party products and services that you may be promoting or recommending online. Your website must comply with a whole range of laws and regulatory guidelines, many of which you may not even be aware of.
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, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a time-saving list of sites we suggest you visit to better understand what your website may require to comply and meet legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- BBB – 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
- 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 why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add essential legal pages to your website or blog using inexpensive methods and resources.
"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum