Is your WordPress site legally compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose products or services you are offering or promoting?
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines were designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes goods or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements will not prevent someone from taking legal action against your business.
New laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the 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.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
The introduction of these new laws has legal ramifications for various business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, like display advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If you do not include certain legal pages on your site (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank won’t let you list digital products for sale, PayPal may suspend your account, Facebook will suspend web applications, and you won’t be allowed to enrol in most advertising and online merchant networks.
Additionally, you may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
This article explains why it’s important to have a compliant website and how to quickly add legal pages to your WordPress website using simple solutions.
Does Your Website Comply With The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot offer 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 requirements in accordance with federal, regional or local laws that govern business online and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of companies whose services or products you endorse
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Consider for one moment what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A customer has a heart attack after they use your online workout program.
- The skin care creams you sell as an affiliate marketer gives people skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t clearly informed them what you plan to do with the information you’ve collected.
- Someone steals content from your site and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your site making your site users aware that you are promoting a product as an affiliate and will receive a sales commission if visitors buy via your link.
- You have not spelled out the terms of your return policies.
- Visitors claim your testimonials are all fake and try to sue you.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your site publishes adult-related content and you did not take sufficient measures to keep underage persons from accessing it.
Consider too the real examples of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal information (including credit card details to complete his offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to issue everyone he does 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 private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping UIDs. 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 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% had infringed 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 entirely to the Google program whose policies 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:
- CPA, CPC or PPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your online business stays legally compliant.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
All the big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in most countries emphasize the need and importance of observing the terms and policies of service providers.
You are obligated to let your site users know that your business complies with all necessary legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you interact with.
Google requires your site to display certain information if using many of their services and product features. This includes using services like Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue with your online properties using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your site using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information-based products using merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you are required to add various legal pages before your products can be approved for sale in their marketplace …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policy statements on your website, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many sites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As documented on their website, this typically results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting site owners 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 does not operate in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business interests by ensuring that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
Various online resources provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business 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)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to develop applications that will integrate with your site, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Social networking apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services online as an affiliate marketer, or monetize your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, or use Google AdWords 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 their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
What Legal Information Pages Should You Add To Your Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If you suspect that your web site lacks in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site will help keep you out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and 3rd-party providers, and even help you avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to consider implementing any of these legal pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides advice about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Use Of Media (if you allow users to download videos or audio files on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add correct disclosures to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Discloses to visitors that you will not receive compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets readers be aware that you will derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and buy through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets readers be aware that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Lets readers be aware that you were compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs your visitors that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult lawyers or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this done, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
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 these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder in your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add a link to these pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu feature …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly visible to your visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the sidebar (or the footer of your site) so that users have access to legal information from all your pages …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your sidebar using widgets, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
Use Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted forms and agreements by searching online, or going to sites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
Go here for more details:
Another option is to purchase a package of cut and paste legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates were written 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 forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & 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 every legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described earlier.
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using copy & paste legal templates, another option is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you loads of headaches.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages like any page on your site.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will 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 WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. Page unlocks when users agree to your terms.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will be added to your main WP dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings)
You can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, review websites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type drop down menu)
Choose from various pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages – 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 this powerful plugin:
The Compliance Bar Plugin is a total compliance & disclaimer solution for your website …
(Legal Suite Pro)
Legal Suite Pro 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 Plugin 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 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).
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing some type of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire the services of a solicitor.
We want your website to be legally protected!
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 ready-made legal documentation, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
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 regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service required by third-party products and services that you may be promoting or endorsing online. Your internet presence must comply with a whole range of 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we offer no legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Here is a useful list of additional sites we recommend you visit to better understand what may be required of your site to comply and meet legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- US Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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 this article has helped you understand why it’s important to have a compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your website.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now