If you plan to grow a successful business online, the last thing you want to do is to learn the hard way that you are doing something illegal.
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines are designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who markets, sells 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 you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for material gain, you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau, also called the BBB. Search online “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)
These laws has legal consequences for various online business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, including contextual advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your site does not display certain pages to visitors (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank or JVZoo will not allow you to sell digital products, PayPal could close down your account and freeze your funds, Facebook will reject your web applications, and you won’t be allowed to promote many advertising and online merchant networks.
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 may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of external providers whose products or services you may be recommending online, and that there are solutions that can help your websites become more compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Does Your Site Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. Do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all laws and regulations wherever your business is located.
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Consider what the implications to your business would be if any of the following scenarios were to happen:
- A person suffers a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate gives people an adverse reaction.
- You’ve informed subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t defined what you will do with it.
- Someone copies content from your website and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your website making your site users aware that you are an affiliate for the product you are endorsing and will get paid a commission if visitors purchase using your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim that your testimonials are false and decide to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed that you have received a free copy in a product review.
- Your website publishes adult-related content and you didn’t take appropriate measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider too the actual examples of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information to complete his offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing private information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many 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% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least two 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 cautions 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 you could easily become exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA or PPA Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence has the right legal pages and information accessible to your site users.
Compliance With Third-Party Services
Complying with third-party companies terms and policies is important.
You must let your site users know that your business complies with all necessary legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you will interact with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires you to display legal information when using their services or features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue online with your blogs using Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense online advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your business using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell digital products via places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will be required to add a number of legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to display clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
New 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 often prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by ensuring that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
There are many online resources that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references at the end of this article …
(It’s important to word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you plan to create apps for your site users, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether or not you are 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 plan to promote products or services on your site as an affiliate marketer, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or driving visitors to your site with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to provide on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
What Compliance Pages Do You Need To Add To Your Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If your website falls short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your website should help your site stay out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and 3rd-party providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Terms And Conditions
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to consider implementing any of these pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you promote or sell affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides general health or medical information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you provide users with access to media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your visitors be aware that you are not receiving any kind of compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers be aware that you may benefit financially if they purchase through your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Informs users that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your readers know that you were compensated in some way to write the article.
- 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.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult a lawyer and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legal folder to your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then add links to these pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to your WordPress sidebar (or the footer of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from every web page …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your website’s pages)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar or footer menu, see this tutorial:
Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted internet forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting sites like the ones listed below:
Go here to learn more:
Alternatively, you can download a set of legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
Cut & Paste website legal pages were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own business name and URL, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission 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 page for every 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 previously described.
Go here for more info:
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using templates, you can simplify things using WordPress plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress-driven websites that you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If the idea of manually creating legal pages for your site feels too time-consuming for you, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported plugin that will help make the work 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 WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes 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 a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages just like any page on your site.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you 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 users agree to the terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- Additional Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will be added to your navigation menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites, review websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
Select from several built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – 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
To learn more this plugin, visit the plugin website:
complete website compliance & disclaimer solution …
Learn more about the plugin here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress 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 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 plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
For more details, go here:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire the services of a legal expert.
We want your website to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documents, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you make money online, it’s important that your website is compliant with all regulations and any terms of service and guidelines provided by 3rd-party services and products that you may decide to promote or sell online. Your digital presence must comply with a wide range of regulations, many of which you may not be aware of.
Non-compliance 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 are not offering 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 the law regarding your specific business.
Here is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your site to remain compliant 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
- Better Business Bureau – 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
- 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 or blog using simple and cost-effective resources and solutions.
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