One of the worst situations you can find yourself in as a business owner is to be on the wrong side of the law.
Internet laws and regulations are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who sells, markets or promotes goods or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law won’t protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you promote anything on your site for material gain, you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the 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 – Better Business Bureau)
These laws has legal consequences for various online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, e.g. Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your digital presence is not compliant, you could also face a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
In this article, we discuss the importance of having a compliant website and how to quickly add legal pages to your website.
Is Your Website Breaking Rules Or Regulations?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice in this article. 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 and regulations that govern online business practices and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of providers whose products or services you use on your website or blog
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider what the implications to your business would be if the following situations were to occur:
- A person suffers a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link skin rashes.
- You’ve informed your subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you plan to do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their site.
- There is no statement on your website making visitors aware that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you will derive financial benefits if visitors buy using your link.
- You did not spell out the terms and conditions of your refund policies.
- Someone claims the testimonials on your site are all fake and decides to sue you because of it.
- You haven’t disclosed that you have received a free copy in your product review.
- Your website contains adult information and you haven’t taken sufficient measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
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 details to complete his offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — 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 prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in breach of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had breached 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 they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to become exposed to the risk of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence has the right legal pages and clearly accessible to your site visitors.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Complying with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are expected to let your site users know that your website 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 interact with.
Google requires websites to display legal information if using their products or features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your WordPress sites using Google AdSense online advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
Or promoting your products through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products with merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you are required to add certain legal pages to your website before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for vendors selling via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many business 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 companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of money-making activity 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 making sure that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
Various business resources provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. See the references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you are planning to create social networking applications that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to 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 driving visitors to your website using Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to display on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party websites require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Common Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If your website is lacking in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site will keep you out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and third-party providers, and avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above pages, you may want to consider implementing one or more of these compliance pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides money-making information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you allow users to download videos or audio files on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the correct type of disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your readers be aware that you will not receive compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets readers know that you may benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate links.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets your visitors be aware that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service you’re reviewing.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to your readers that you have been compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Content To Your Site
Ideally, you should consult lawyers and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once this has been created, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually 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 web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory in your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu feature …
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add these to your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors have access to legal information from every web page …
(Display legal pages to users on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar menu and footer in WordPress using widgets here:
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable internet forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to websites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms)
Visit this site to learn more:
Alternatively, you can download a set of cut & paste website legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new 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 these to your server as previously described.
Go here for more information:
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using legal templates, you can keep things really simple by using plugins.
Here are some WordPress plugins that you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If manually creating legal pages for your site feels too time-consuming for you, then consider using a plugin like WP Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you a great deal of time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to 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 legal pages you need in a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages just like every other WP page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will be added to 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 …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
You can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Create different legal pages)
You can also select from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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
Go here to learn more this powerful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users with over 20 customizable compliance pages for your website …
(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 – 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 less than one minute and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites.
If hiring a lawyer to create your online legal documentation is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional legal services.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal forms, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator Software quickly generates basic legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you do any type of business online, you need to ensure that your website complies with regulatory agencies and the terms of service and guidelines of 3rd-party sites that you may decide to promote or endorse online. If your website doesn’t comply 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, we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice here. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with the law wherever your business is based.
Legal Resources And References
Below is a time-saving list of sites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what your website may require to remain compliant and meet legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC 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
- US Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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 the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your WordPress website or blog.
"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com