Is your website compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose products or services you do business with?
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to anyone who markets, sells or promotes products or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law won’t prevent someone from taking legal action against your business.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for commercial gain, then you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the Better Business Bureau, also known as BBB. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The introduction of new laws affect several online business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including Google AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your online business is not compliant, you could end up facing a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
This guide explains the importance of having a legally compliant website and lists simple and inexpensive methods and solutions to make your website or blog legally compliant.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. As previously stated, the aim 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 governing your business and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of companies whose services or products you advertise on your website or blog
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A user suffers a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online workout program.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate gives people allergic reactions.
- You’ve told your subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you’ll do with it.
- Someone copies content from your site and puts it up on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog informing visitors that you’re an affiliate for the product you are selling that you will receive a financial benefit if visitors buy it.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your refund and return policies.
- Online visitors claim that your testimonials are false and decide to sue you.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site includes adult content and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider too these documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up their personal information (including credit card information 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 whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes UIDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% had infringed at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had infringed at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in violation of 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 to the Google program with the violation, 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 non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords User
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to ensure that your website is legally compliant.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services Terms And Policies
Complying with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You are required to let your visitors know that your website complies will all laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you do business with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information when using their services. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your site with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your products through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information-based products using places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add certain legal pages to your site before your products can be approved for selling via their networks …
(Policy requirements for selling digital products via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you display clear disclaimers and disclosures on your site, especially when using product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site 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 ignore) these requirements. As has already been 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 type of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business interests by ensuring that your website complies with all FTC guidelines and regulations.
There are many online business resources that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. We provide a number of references and links to resources at the end of this article …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to create applications that will integrate with your site, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others require you to provide access to your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything on your site as an affiliate marketer, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to display on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies)
What Legal Information Should You Add To Your Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If you suspect that your web site falls short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help keep you out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and third-party providers, and even help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to consider adding one or more of these compliance pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you promote or sell affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides content about financial areas or income opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets visitors know that you are not being paid for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Informs users that you may be compensated if they purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets visitors be aware that you have received a review or sample copy of the product by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs site users that you were compensated in some way to write the content.
- 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you should have your lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares 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 them for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory in your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder 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 …
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and clearly visible to visitors. You can add these to the WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website) to ensure that users will be able to access legal information from all pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information on all of your website’s pages)
To learn more about adding links to pages on your sidebar and footer menu, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Use Ready-Made Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted website forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting websites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms – Attorney-prepared legal forms)
For more information, go here:
Another option is to download a package of cut and paste legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & 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 WordPress 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 the pages to your web server as previously described.
Visit this website to learn more:
WordPress Legal Plugins
As well as using legal templates, you can simplify things by using plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress users you may be interested in checking out:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider choosing a plugin like WP Legal Pages instead …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website much easier and save you a great deal of time.
Some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other page on your website.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks when 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 is added to your navigation menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
You can create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, affiliate/review websites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Create different legal pages)
Select from several built-in legal templates …
(WP 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 powerful plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users containing over twenty customizable legal templates for your digital presence …
Go here to learn more about this plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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 of Service
- 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 powered 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 using the services of lawyers to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire a legal expert.
We want your website to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal content, or a WordPress legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do business online, it’s important that your website is compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business online and any terms of service and guidelines provided by 3rd-party products and services that you may decide to promote or recommend online. Your internet presence must comply with a number 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice on our website. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Below is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to stay compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- US 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 you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your site using simple methods and resources.
"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