Is your WordPress site legally compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose products or services you advertise or recommend?
As the digital realm continues growing at an overwhelming speed and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s vitally important to try and stay on top of what’s happening and ensure that your website or blog remains legal, especially if having a digital presence is a fundamental part of your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, 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 for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws has ramifications for various online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If you are not compliant, you could face a multitude of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this guide is to make you aware that your site(s) may be required to comply with certain legalities, the importance of complying with the terms of service of external providers whose products or services you may be selling on your site, and that there are plugins for WordPress that can help your website become compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog 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 is compliant with the law wherever your business is based in.
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for one moment what would happen to your business if these situations were to happen:
- A customer has a heart attack after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link an allergic reaction.
- You’ve informed your subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website or blog letting your visitors know that you’re an affiliate for the product you are selling that you could get paid financial benefits if visitors buy it.
- You didn’t spell out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- Someone claims that the testimonials on your site are misleading and tries to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult-related information and you did not take appropriate measures to restrict access by underage children.
Consider too the documented examples 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 a debt reduction offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping UIDs. Many marketers took a risk 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 websites picked at random, more than 90% were breaking 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% had breached 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 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 exposed to non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s vitally important to make sure that your online business complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Complying With Third-Party Companies Terms And Policies
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade in most countries emphasize the need of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your website complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of most companies you interact with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information if using many of their products. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue with your blog with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense ads - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information products using places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add various legal pages before your products are approved for sale in their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for selling digital products via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policy statements on your site, especially if you plan to sell products and services with the aid of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many sites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your site is compliant with all FTC guidelines.
A number of online resources provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references at the end of this article …
(Wording 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 develop applications for your website, sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others will require you to provide access to your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products on your site via affiliate marketing, or generate revenue with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or use 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 been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
Common Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Website
If your web site lacks in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site will help your site stay out of trouble with most regulatory authorities and external service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimers
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to consider adding any of these pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides general content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add correct disclosure information to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Disclosure that informs visitors that you will not receive any type of compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Disclosure that informs site users that you may benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets site users know that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product you’re writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to your visitors that you were compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets readers 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.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in typical web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal folder on your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the sidebar menu (or place them in the footer of your website) to ensure that visitors have access to legal information from all pages …
(Display legal pages to users on all of your site’s pages)
If you need help adding links to pages on your sidebar and footer in WordPress using widgets, see this tutorial:
Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting sites like the ones listed below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
For more details, visit this website:
Another option is to download a set of website legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
Cut & Paste website legal pages 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 web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Page 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 for each legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload the pages to your web server as described previously.
For more information, go here:
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using legal templates, you can keep things really simple using a plugin.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress users you may be interested in using:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress 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 Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like any other WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can 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 every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When a user agrees to the 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 feature will appear inside your main WordPress dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, affiliate websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Type of Site drop down menu)
You can also select from various built-in 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
Go here to learn more this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users with over twenty customizable compliance page templates for your site …
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
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 – 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 secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them 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 websites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
If hiring legal experts to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a lawyer.
We want your website to be legally safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (it’s FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal documents, or a WordPress plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator Software allows you to quickly generate essential legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you do business online (or are planning to), you need to make sure that your website is compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service and guidelines for 3rd-party services and products that you may be promoting or advertising online. Your digital presence must comply with numerous laws and regulatory guidelines, many of which you may not even be aware of.
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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with the law wherever your business is based.
References And Legal Resources
Here is a useful list of websites we recommend you visit to better understand what your site may require to remain compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- 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
- US Copyright Office
- 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 you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website using simple methods and solutions.
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