One of the worst predicaments you can find yourself in as a website owner is to break the law.
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who sells, markets or promotes goods or services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements will not prevent someone from taking legal action against your business.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, then you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the Better Business Bureau, also called the BBB. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws has ramifications for various online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, e.g. inline ads, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
More importantly, you could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your website or blog are required to comply with legal requirements according to laws that govern online business practices, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be recommending online, and that there are solutions that can help your online properties become more compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Does Your Website Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice. As previously stated, the purpose of this article is only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations that govern your business and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of 3rd-party companies whose services or products you promote on your website or blog
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Consider what would happen to your business if any of these situations were to take place:
- A customer suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate gives people allergic reactions.
- You’ve told subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t informed them exactly what you plan to do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your website and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your website making your site visitors aware that you are promoting a product as an affiliate that you could derive a sales commission if visitors buy the product using your link.
- You didn’t spell out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Your visitors claim the testimonials on your site are misleading and try to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult-related information and you haven’t taken sufficient measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider now the following real case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal information to complete his offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’re now required to issue a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites chosen 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 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had breached at least 3 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 cautions or lose access entirely to the Google program whose policies they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk becoming a target of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
You need to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website has the right legal pages and clearly displayed to all you site visitors.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services Terms And Policies
Complying with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You must 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 most companies you do business with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires websites to display legal information when using many of their products and service. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue with your websites using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense display advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your site using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell digital products via companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you are required to add a number of legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for selling via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to display clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has happened in the past, 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 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 interests by making sure that your site complies with all FTC 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. See the references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to develop applications for your website, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others will require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of sites like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services on your site via affiliate marketing, or making money online with Google AdSense, ads for Amazon or eBay products, or driving visitors to your site using Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
What Legal Information Do You Need To Add To Your Website To Be Covered Against Legal Compliance Issues?
If your web site falls short in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your website will keep your business out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and 3rd-party service providers, and avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Terms & Conditions
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to consider adding any of these pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides health or medical advice)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Use Of Media (if you provide users with access to download videos or audio files on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right type of content disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets site users know that you will not receive any type of compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets users know that you will receive compensation if they purchase through an affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Explains to site users that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs site users that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets your 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 online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in typical web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these legal pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and display clearly to your visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your sidebar menu (or the footer of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from every web page …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer menu using widgets here:
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting websites like this one:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
Go here for more information:
Another option is to purchase a package of website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates)
Cut & Paste website templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page for every legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described previously.
For more details, go here:
WordPress Legal Plugins
In addition to using cut & paste legal templates, another option is to use plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress users that you may be interested in using:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal web pages manually, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your website much easier and save you many headaches.
Some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any page on your site.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When the user agrees to your terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will display inside your main navigation area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Screen)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, niche websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Create different legal pages)
Choose from several pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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 website to learn more about using this useful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin with over 20 customizable compliance page templates for your online presence …
Go here to learn more about the plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
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 And Conditions
- 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 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 less than one minute and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites.
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your site to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal page templates, or a plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator Software quickly generates basic 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 plan to), you need to make sure that your site is compliant with all laws and regulations and any guidelines and terms of service provided by 3rd-party products and services that you may be promoting or advertising online. Your internet presence must comply with a wide range of laws and regulatory guidelines, some of which you may not 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 offer legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with the law pertaining to your business.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to comply and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Better Business Bureau
- 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
- Google 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 compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add legal pages to your website.
"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