As a website owner, you do not want to learn the hard way that you have broken the law.
Internet laws are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes goods and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t prevent 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 plan to promote anything on your site for profit, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection 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)
The new laws has legal implications for several business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, including text link ads, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If your website is not compliant, you could end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your website(s) may be required to comply with legal requirements, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose products or services you may be using online, and that there are solutions that can help your website become compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog Breaking The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. As stated earlier, 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 that govern business online and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of 3rd-party companies whose services or products you recommend
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Is your business at risk? Consider for a minute what would happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A person has a heart attack after they use your online workout program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link an adverse reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t clearly informed them what you will do with the details you’ve collected.
- Someone copies content from your site and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making your site users aware that you are promoting a product as an affiliate and may derive a financial benefit if they purchase through your link.
- You have not spelled out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are all fake and try to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you have received a free copy in a product review.
- Your website includes adult information and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider too these actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up personal information (including credit card info to complete a debt reduction offer. 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 children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in violation 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 with warnings or lose access to the Google program whose policies they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could easily become exposed to the risk of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
It’s vitally important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your online business remains legally compliant.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services
All the leading online companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the need and importance of complying with the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your website complies with legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you engage with.
Google requires you to display legal information if using their products and features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue online with your online properties using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense online advertising policy requirements)
Or promoting your services through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell products online via merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you are required to add a number of legal pages before your products are approved for sale …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you include clear disclaimers and policies on your site, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Comply
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, this often prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies 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 located in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by ensuring that your site complies with FTC regulations.
There are many sites that can 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 …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to develop social networking applications for your site, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others will require you to provide information about various legal pages …
(Apps that integrate with social networking sites also require compliance)
- If you are not sure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote anything on your site as an affiliate marketer, or making money online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, 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 need to provide on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party websites require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Basic Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your website or blog lacks in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will help your site stay out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and 3rd-party service providers, and avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above, you may want to look into including one or more of these pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you promote or sell affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general content about financial areas or money-making opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you allow users to download media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets site users know that you are not receiving any type of compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies users that you may be compensated if they purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets your readers be aware that you have received a review or sample copy of the product by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to visitors that you have been compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets readers 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 Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will consult a lawyer and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are up-to-date and clearly visible to all visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to your sidebar menu (or place them in the footer of your site) so that users can access the information from all your web pages …
(It’s important to display links to legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your WordPress sidebar using widgets here:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or visiting websites like the ones listed below:
Find Legal Forms
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
Another option is to download a set of cut & paste website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website 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 Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & Conditions of Use: includes 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 each legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your server as described earlier.
Go here for more details:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using cut & paste legal templates, you can keep things very simple using WordPress plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
WP Legal Pages
(WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using WP Legal Pages …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you many headaches.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages are:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the legal pages you need in around 3 minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like every other page on your site.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your website or blog pages and the information will then be 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 every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When the user agrees to your legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- Additional Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear inside your main dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view your legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
You have the option of easily creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, review sites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Page Type)
You can also choose from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – 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 the benefits of using this plugin, visit the plugin website:
Compliance Bar Plugin – Compliance Plugin For WordPress
complete website compliance & disclaimer solution …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
Legal Suite Pro Plugin
(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 & 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 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 this plugin on all of your websites.
Go here for more information:
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider at least implementing some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your business to be legally safe!
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 attorney-prepared legal documents, or a WordPress plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of business online (or plan to), it’s important that your site remains compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business online and any guidelines and terms of service (TOS) provided by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or recommend online. Your digital presence 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 are not providing legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements pertaining to your business.
Below is a time-saving list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal obligations:
- FTC 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
- 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
- United States Copyright Office
- Google 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
We hope 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 WordPress website or blog.
"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum