Is your WordPress website legally compliant? Do you know if you are breaking the law, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose products or services you are selling or endorsing?
Online laws were designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes products and services online. Anyone who owns a website 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 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online for information about “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
The introduction of new laws affect various business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including inline advertising, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
In addition, you could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
In this guide, we discuss the importance of having a compliant website and list inexpensive solutions to help make your WordPress site legally compliant.
Is Your Website Or Blog Legally Compliant?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. Do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all laws wherever your business is based in.
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider what would happen to your business if any of the following incidents were to take place:
- Someone has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you sell as an affiliate marketer gives people skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement informing subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly spelled out what you will do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your site and publishes it on their site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog letting your site users know that you are an affiliate for the product you are endorsing that you may earn a financial benefit if visitors buy through your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are fake and try to sue you.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website includes adult content and you did not take appropriate measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider also the actual case studies of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he is now required to issue 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 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 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, resulting thousands of dollars 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 violation of 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 with warnings or lose access to the Google program they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could become exposed to the risks of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords User
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
You need to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website is fully compliant with the law.
Complying With Third-Party Services
Complying with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your website complies will all laws and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will engage with online.
Google requires you to display certain information when using their services. This includes using features like Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your blog using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your services using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products through merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you are required to add legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policy statements on your site, especially concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many sites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, this typically prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any type of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by ensuring that your site complies with FTC regulations and guidelines.
Many online resources provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references and links to resources to some of these at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you plan to develop apps that will integrate with your site, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others will require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything online as an affiliate marketer, or make money online 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 display on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all third-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
Basic Legal Pages To Include In Your Site
If you suspect that your web site lacks in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your site will help your site keep out of trouble with most regulatory authorities and external providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to look into implementing one or more of these pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides advice about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the right disclosures to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you will not be receiving any form of payment for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets readers be aware that you will derive some form of financial or similar kind of benefit if they purchase through an affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Explains to your visitors that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs users that you were compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users 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 Legal Pages Content To Your WordPress Website
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been created, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory in your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then add a link to your pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu admin area …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are up-to-date and display clearly to visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your sidebar (or place them in the footer of your site) to ensure that visitors can access legal information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar and footer here:
Using Legal Templates
You can find attorney-prepared downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones listed below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
Go here to learn more:
Alternatively, you can download a set of cut and paste legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with simple search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
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 pages and publish or upload these to your server as previously described.
For more details, go here:
Legal Pages – Plugins
As well as using templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress-powered websites worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages)
If the idea of creating legal pages manually feels too time-consuming for you, then consider using a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages …
This plugin is not free, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Templates – Includes 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 a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like every other WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your website or blog 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 other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When the user agrees to the 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 display inside your main WP dashboard area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings)
You can easily create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, niche sites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Type of Site menu)
Select from various pre-configured legal templates …
(WP 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 this plugin, visit this website:
complete website compliance and disclaimer solution …
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin 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
- 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 powered site. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use the plugin on all of your websites.
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire the services of a legal expert.
We want your site to be safe!
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 as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you do business online (or are planning to), you need to make sure that your website complies with all government laws and regulations and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines required by third-party services and products that you may decide to promote or recommend online. Your internet presence must comply with numerous regulations, 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 on our website. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with the law in your country or region.
Here is a useful list of additional sites we suggest you visit to better understand what may be required of your website to remain compliant and meet legal obligations:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC 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
- United States Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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 legal pages to your website using inexpensive methods and solutions.
"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)