Is your WordPress site legally compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose services or products you are using or endorsing?
Online laws were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes products and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t prevent someone from taking legal action against you.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you promote anything on your website for material gain, you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the US-based BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws has legal implications for several online business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, e.g. display advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your website does not display certain pages (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank will not let you list your digital products on their network, PayPal may shut down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook could disapprove your web applications, and you will not be accepted into various advertising or online merchant networks.
More importantly, you may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your website(s) are required to comply with various legalities in accordance with the laws that govern business practices online, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be recommending on your website, and that there are solutions for WordPress website owners that can help your sites become fully compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Does Your Website Comply With The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice. You must carry out your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all laws wherever your business is located.
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Consider for one minute what would happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A person has a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online fitness program.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate marketer gives a number of users allergic reactions.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement letting subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you’ll do with it.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their website.
- You haven’t informed visitors that you are marketing a product as an affiliate that you may earn a financial benefit if they end up buying through your link.
- You didn’t spell out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Visitors claim that your testimonials are fake and try to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you received a free copy in a product review.
- Your site contains adult-related information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider also the real case studies of costly compliance breaches described:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card details to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, they’re now required to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer received a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many internet 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 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% had infringed 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% were in violation of 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 with warnings or lose access 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 easily be exposed to the risks of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
it’s important to make sure that your website is fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With Third-Party Services Terms And Policies
Leading online companies and government trade regulatory agencies emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your visitors know that your website complies with laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your business, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you will interact with online.
Google requires you to display legal information when using many of their services and product features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your WordPress blogs using Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense display advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your site using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information-based products through companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add various legal pages to your site before your products can be approved for sale in their network …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for product vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you add clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Comply
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting site owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any kind of business 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 interests by making sure that your site is compliant with FTC guidelines and regulations.
Various online resources provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you plan to create apps for your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with information about your legal pages …
(Apps for social networking sites 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 service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services on your site using affiliate marketing, or generate revenue with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, or driving visitors to your website using Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to display on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- 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, almost all 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Essential Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your website falls short in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help your business keep out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and third-party service providers, and avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Website Disclaimers
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to look into adding any of the following pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Video/Audio Terms (e.g. if you provide users with access to downloadable media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets visitors know that you will not receive any form of compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets users know that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets your readers be aware that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service you’re reviewing.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to site users that you were compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors 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 display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult lawyers and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on 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 via FTP)
You can then add links to these legal pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu feature …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and display clearly to all visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your WordPress sidebar (or the footer of your site) to ensure that visitors have access to legal information from all pages …
(Display links to your legal information to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar using widgets, see this tutorial:
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable internet forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting websites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms – Legal forms)
Go here for more information:
Alternatively, you can purchase a package of cut and paste legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(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 search and replace to insert your own details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Pages 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 WordPress page for each legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as described previously.
For more information, go here:
WordPress Legal Plugins
In addition to using legal templates, you can keep things very simple by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress-driven sites worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If setting up legal pages manually seems too time-consuming for you, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you a great deal of time.
Some of the benefits of using WP Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages like every other WP page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any other WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. When a user agrees to your legal terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will appear in your dashboard area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites, affiliate/review sites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Type of Site dropdown menu)
You can also choose from a number of pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – 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
Go here to learn more about using this plugin:
Compliance Bar Plugin is a total compliance & disclaimer solution for your website …
(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 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 this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
For more details, go here:
If hiring a lawyer to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire the services of a lawyer.
We want your website to be legally protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal content, or a legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do business online, you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service required by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or offer online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws intended to protect consumers, you’re breaking the law.
Being non-compliant 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 cannot provide legal advice. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all legal requirements pertaining to your business.
Here is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your site may require to remain compliant 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
- 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
- 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 why it’s important to have a compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website.
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