As a business owner, the last thing you want to do is to find yourself breaking any laws, rules or regulations.
Internet laws were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes goods and services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law will not prevent someone from taking legal action against you.
New laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, then you must follow certain disclosure guidelines 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 for more details.
(Better Business Bureau)
The new laws affect various business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, like contextual ads
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your online presence is not in compliance, you could also end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your website or blog may be subject to legal requirements, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be selling online, and that there are solutions that can help your sites become more compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Does Your Site Comply With The Law?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice about your website or business. As previously stated, the purpose of this article is to help make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal policies in accordance with the laws governing your business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of providers whose services or products you promote
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- Someone has a heart attack after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate marketer gives someone who purchases from your link allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you plan to do with their details.
- Someone steals your content and publishes it on their site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making visitors aware that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate and could earn financial benefits if visitors buy it.
- You have not spelled out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim the testimonials on your site are all fake and try to sue you because of it.
- You haven’t disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site contains adult content and you haven’t taken sufficient measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider now the following actual case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up personal information (including credit card information to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to give everyone they do business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer received 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 UIDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in breach 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 notices or lose access entirely to the Google program with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being exposed to non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
You need to make sure that your online business complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your visitors know that your business complies with laws and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of many companies you engage with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires websites to display certain information if using many of their services. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your online properties with Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your business through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell products online using companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many websites 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 in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business by making sure that your site complies with all FTC guidelines and regulations.
A number of business resources provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Apps Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to develop social networking applications for your website users, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- 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 you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
What Compliance Information Do You Need To Add To Your Site To Be Legally Compliant?
If your web site falls short in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help your website keep out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and 3rd-party service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to consider including any of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets users be aware that you will not receive for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users know that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and purchase through an affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Explains to visitors that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets readers be aware that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets users 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 website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload 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 them for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then easily add links to these legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and display clearly to all site visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to your sidebar (or place them in the footer of your site) so that visitors have access to legal information from all your pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on adding links to pages on your WP sidebar or footer, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
You can easily find attorney-prepared downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting sites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
Go here for more information:
Another option is to download a package of cut and paste legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Pages)
These legal pages were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new Federal Trade Commission regulations and guidelines brought into effect on March 2012)
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use: with inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new WordPress page for each legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your server as described previously.
Go here to learn more:
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If the idea of manually setting up legal pages for your site seems too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s an affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using the WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you need in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like any WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your WordPress pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks only when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will appear in your navigation menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Page type dropdown menu)
Select from various built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Built-In 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
Visit this site to learn more about this plugin:
Compliance Bar Plugin is a complete compliance & disclaimer solution for your online presence …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(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
- 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 secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them 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 less than one minute and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
To learn more, visit this website:
If hiring legal experts to create your online legal documentation is currently out of your budget, then consider implementing some form of basic legal protection on your website until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal page templates, or a legal pages plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator lets you quickly generate essential legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you make money online, you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business practices online and any terms of service and guidelines for third-party sites that you may be promoting or offering online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws designed 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we provide no legal advice on this website. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with the law in your country or region.
Additional Legal Information
Here is a useful list of additional sites we suggest you visit to better understand what your site may require to comply and meet its legal obligations:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- United States Copyright Office
- 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 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 site using simple legal resources and solutions.
"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie