Is your WordPress website legally compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose products or services you are offering or endorsing?
As digital business continues to grow at an overwhelming speed and rules constantly change, it’s important that you try to stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your site remains legally compliant, especially if having an online presence is important in the success of your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, then you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau (BBB). 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)
The new laws affect various online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like text link ads, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
Without certain legal pages on your site (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank will not allow you to list your digital products on their network, PayPal may shut down your account and freeze your funds, Facebook could reject your applications, and you won’t be allowed into various advertising and affiliate merchant networks.
If your website is not compliant, you could also face a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this guide is to help make you aware that your website(s) are subject to legal requirements according to laws that govern businesses online, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be offering on your site, and that there are solutions that can help your sites become compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Is Your Website Legally Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all laws and regulations wherever your business is based.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider for one moment what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- Someone suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care creams you sell as an affiliate marketer gives someone who purchases from your link skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you plan to do with it.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website or blog informing visitors that you are an affiliate for the product you’re selling that you could derive financial benefits if visitors purchase it.
- You did not spell out the terms of your return policies.
- Someone claims your testimonials are misleading and decides to sue you as a result.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult content and you have not taken sufficient measures to restrict access by underage children.
Consider too these actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information (including credit card info to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone he does business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ 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 websites chosen at random, more than 90% were breaking 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% had breached 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 they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk becoming exposed to litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
You need to make sure that your website or blog is fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies
Complying with third-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are expected to let your site users know that your business complies with laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of most companies you will engage with.
Google requires you to display certain information when using their services or features. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your websites using Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your services through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell products online with places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements digital product vendors selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially when concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many websites 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 site owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with FTC guidelines.
Many business resources provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. See our additional references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(It’s important to structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps - Don’t Forget These
If you are planning to develop social networking applications for your site users, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others will require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Apps that interface with social networking sites like Facebook also require compliance)
- If you are unsure whether or not you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online via affiliate marketing, or generating revenue with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to provide on your site to comply with all 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.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party websites require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Essential Legal Pages To Include In Your Website
If your website or blog lacks in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site will keep you out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and third-party service providers, and even help you avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to look into adding one or more of these compliance pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of content disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets users know that you will not receive for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Informs site users that you may benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets users be aware that you have received a review or sample copy of the product or service by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your visitors be aware that you have been compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets your visitors 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.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal verbiage 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 adding a legals folder to your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then easily add links to your pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add these to the sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your website) so that visitors will be able to access legal information from all of your site’s pages …
(It’s important to display legal pages to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
If you need help displaying links to pages on your sidebar and footer using widgets, refer to this tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and internet forms and agreements just by searching online, or going to websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
To learn more, go here:
Alternatively, you can download a package of legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- 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 page for every legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as described previously.
For more information, go here:
WordPress Legal Plugins
As well as using templates, another option is to use a plugin.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress users you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider installing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages are:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks when the user agrees to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will display inside your main dashboard section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings)
With WPLegal Pages, you can easily create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, niche sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
Choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Pre-configured 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 useful plugin, visit the plugin site:
The Compliance Bar Plugin is a total compliance & disclaimer solution for your digital presence …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers 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 license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites.
Visit this website to learn more:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing some basic type of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional legal services.
We want your site to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal forms, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator allows you to quickly generate essential legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of business online, it’s important that your site complies with all laws and regulations and the guidelines and terms of service provided by 3rd-party sites that you may be promoting or recommending online. Your internet presence must comply with a wide range of regulations, some 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 provide no legal advice on our website. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website fully complies with the law wherever your business is based.
Here is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to stay compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- United States Copyright Office
- 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 above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your WordPress website.
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