One of the worst predicaments a website owner can find themselves in is to break the law.
As the digital realm continues growing at breakneck speed and rules constantly change, it’s vital that you try to stay on top of what’s happening and ensure that your website or blog remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if your online presence is a fundamental factor in your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau, also called the BBB. 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 introduction of these new laws affect several business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including PPC advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If you are not compliant, you could also face a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of complying with the terms of service of external providers whose products or services you may be offering on your site, and that there are easy solutions for WordPress that can help your website become compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Is Your Website Compliant?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice in this article. As previously stated, the purpose of this article is only to 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 practices online and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of companies whose services or products you use on your website
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider what the implications to your business would be if the following were to occur:
- A person suffers a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate gives a number of users skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you will do with the details you have collected.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their own site.
- You haven’t advised your visitors that you are an affiliate for the product you’re promoting that you could get paid a financial benefit if they buy through your link.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your refund policies.
- Your visitors claim your testimonials are misleading and decide to sue you as a result.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult-related information and you have not taken sufficient measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider too these documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- 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. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, they’re now required to provide 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 children’s private information.
- 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, costing them thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% had breached at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were breaking 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 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 becoming targeted for litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA or PPA Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
It’s vitally important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence has the right legal pages and information displayed to all site users.
Complying With Third-Party Companies
All the big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in many countries emphasize the need of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your site users know that your website complies with all necessary legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required by most companies you do business with.
Google requires your site to display legal information if using their products or features. This includes using services like Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue with your WordPress site using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense display advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information-based products through merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will be required to add certain legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to include clear disclaimers and policies on your website, especially if you plan to sell or promote products and services using product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see 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 website owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your site complies with FTC guidelines and regulations.
Various sites provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. We provide additional references at the end of this article …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to create apps for your website users, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others require you to provide information about your 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 sites like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services online as an affiliate marketer, or make money online with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon 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 suspended.
- If you’ve been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
Common Legal Pages To Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If your web site is lacking in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site will keep you out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and external service providers, and avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to look into implementing any of these compliance pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Video/Audio Terms (e.g. if you allow media downloads on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding correct disclosure information to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets users be aware that you will not receive any type of payment for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies readers that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Discloses to site users that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product you’re reviewing or writing about by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets your visitors be aware that you have been compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs your visitors 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 Site
Ideally, you should have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once these have been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares and delivers 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 directory on your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. using FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these legal pages from your WordPress site 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 clearly visible to your visitors. You can insert these into your sidebar (or the footer section of your website) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from every web page …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer in WordPress here:
Using Store-Bought Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
For more details, go here:
Another option is to download a package of cut & paste legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service (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 WordPress page for each legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload the pages to your server as described earlier.
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using cut & paste legal templates, you can keep things really simple using plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress-powered websites worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If manually setting up legal pages for your website seems too time-consuming for you, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported plugin that will make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site a lot easier and save you a great deal of time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Legal Templates – Over 20 built-in legal 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 just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. 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. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when user agrees to your terms.
- Additional Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will appear inside your main navigation section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
With WPLegal Pages, you can create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites with products, affiliate sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
You can also select from various pre-configured 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 the plugin website to learn more about this plugin:
Compliance Bar Plugin is a complete compliance & disclaimer solution for your website …
Go here to learn more about the plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin 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 of Service
- 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 site. Your legal pages can be 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 sites.
If hiring legal experts to create your legal documentation is currently out of your budget, consider implementing some type of legal protection on your site until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your business to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documents, or a legal pages plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you make money online, it’s important that your site is compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate how business online is done and the terms of service and guidelines of 3rd-party products and services that you may decide to promote or offer online. If your website isn’t compliant 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we provide no legal advice on our website. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Here is a time-saving list of additional sites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- US 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your site.
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