Is your website legally compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose services or products you are doing business with?
Online laws were designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes products or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements will not excuse you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your website for profit, you must follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. 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 – BBB)
The introduction of these new laws has legal consequences for various online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your website does not display certain legal pages (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo won’t allow you to list digital products, PayPal could shut down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook will suspend web applications, and you will not be allowed to promote a range of advertising and online marketing networks.
In addition, you may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your website(s) may be required to comply with legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern business practices online, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be offering online, and that there are plugins for WordPress that can help your online properties become compliant, such as the tools discussed further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog Breaking The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice about your website or business. As previously stated, the aim of this article is to help make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations governing business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of providers whose services or products you offer
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A user has a heart attack after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you sell as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link an allergic reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not clearly spelled out what you plan to do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your website and publishes it on their site.
- You haven’t informed your visitors that you are an affiliate for the product you are marketing and will derive a financial benefit if visitors buy it.
- You didn’t spell out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Someone claims that your testimonials are all fake and decides to sue you because of it.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website includes adult-related information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider now the documented case studies of costly compliance breaches below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- 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 information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% had breached at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had broken 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 entirely to the Google program they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could be exposed to the risks of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website complies with all laws governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Complying With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Big companies and government trade regulatory agencies emphasize the importance of observing the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You are expected to let your site users know that your website complies with laws and professional guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will interact with.
Google requires your site to display certain information if using many of their products. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your blog with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
Or promoting your site using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell digital products with companies such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages to your website before your products can be approved for sale in their network …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policies on your website, especially if you plan to sell or promote products using product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute site owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business by ensuring that your website complies with all FTC guidelines and regulations.
You can find many sites that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. We provide a number of references and links to useful resources at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to create apps for your site, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Social networking apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services online via affiliate marketing, or generating revenue with Google AdSense, ads for Amazon or eBay products, or driving visitors to your website using Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to provide on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies)
What Legal Information Pages Do You Need To Add To Your Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If your website is lacking in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your website should help your site keep out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and third-party service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to look into including any of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general advice about financial areas or income opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add the right types of disclosure pages to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets users be aware that you will not receive for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to readers that you will be compensated if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate link.
- Sample/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 readers that you have been compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets users know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy 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 will consult a lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legals directory to your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then add links to your pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to your sidebar menu (or place them in the footer of your site) to ensure that users have access to the information from all your pages …
(Display links to legal information on all of your website’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer menu using widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Using Store-Bought Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
To learn more, go here:
Another option is to purchase a set of website legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates new FTC regulations and guidelines brought into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for each legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as described previously.
WordPress Legal Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste templates, another option is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you many headaches.
Here are just some of the benefits of using the WP Legal Pages:
- Built-in Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages like any other page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like every other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When the user agrees to your terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will be added to your WP dashboard section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Screen)
You can easily create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type drop down menu)
Choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Pre-configured 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
To learn more about using this plugin, go here:
The Compliance Bar Plugin is a total compliance and disclaimer solution for your online business …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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 & Conditions
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress – 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 powered site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the license allows you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
If hiring a lawyer to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional legal services.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal content, or a plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator Software lets you easily generate essential legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you do any kind of business online (or plan to), it’s important that your website stays compliant with all government regulations and any guidelines and terms of service provided by 3rd-party sites that you may be promoting or endorsing online. Your digital presence must comply with various laws and regulatory guidelines, many 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, we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website fully complies with the law in your country or region.
Legal Resources & References
Here is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your website may require to stay compliant 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
- Better Business Bureau – 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
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 compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly add legal pages to your website or blog.
"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com