One of the worst predicaments a website owner can find themselves in is to be on the wrong side of the law.
Internet laws, regulations, and guidelines were designed to protect consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes products or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements will not prevent someone from taking legal action against you.
New laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your website for profit, then you must follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online for information about “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 various business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including contextual advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your site does not display certain legal pages to visitors (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo will not allow you to sell digital products, PayPal may close down your account and freeze your funds, Facebook could reject your applications, and you will not be allowed into various advertising and affiliate marketing networks.
Additionally, you may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your website are subject to legal requirements, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be recommending online, and that there are plugin-based solutions for WordPress users that can help your site become compliant, such as the tools that we list further below.
Does Your Website Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. As stated above, the aim of this article is to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with the laws that govern business practices online and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of third-party companies whose services or products you advertise on your website
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A user suffers a heart attack after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate gives a number of users allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you’ll do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your website and publishes it on their own website.
- There is no statement on your site making your site users aware that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate that you could receive an affiliate commission if visitors buy it.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms and conditions of your refund or return policies.
- Someone claims that your testimonials are all fake and tries to sue you as a result.
- You have not disclosed 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 keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider now these documented case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal information (including credit card information to complete his offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a whopping $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 Users IDs. 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 picked at random, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in breach of at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had broken 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 notices or lose access entirely 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 a target of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA or PPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Leading online companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your site users know that your business complies will all laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of many companies you engage with.
Google requires you to display certain information when using many of their services. This includes using features such as Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue online with your website with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your products via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell information products via places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add various legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for selling through ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and disclosures on your site, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, this often prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute site owners 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 is not physically located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by ensuring that your site is compliant with all FTC regulations and guidelines.
You can find many sites that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. See the additional references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Apps Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to create applications that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others with access to your legal pages …
(Apps for social networking sites like Facebook also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products online using affiliate marketing, or generating revenue with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or using Google AdWords pay-per-click ads to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
What Compliance Information Do I Need To Add To My Website To Be Compliant?
If your website is lacking in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will help keep your business out of trouble with most regulatory authorities and third-party providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- 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 the pages listed below where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you promote or sell affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Audio/Video Terms (e.g. if you provide users with access to downloadable videos or audio files on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add the right types of disclosure pages to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your readers know that you’re not receiving compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers be aware that you may be compensated if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets your readers be aware that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Informs site users that you have been compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs readers 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.
Adding Legal Pages Content To Your Site
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu administration …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and display clearly to visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from all pages …
(Display links to legal pages to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar and footer menu here:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements by searching online, or visiting websites like the ones shown below:
Go here for more details:
Another option is to download a set of cut & paste website legal templates written by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Templates)
Cut & Paste website legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for each legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described previously.
For more details, go here:
WordPress Legal Plugins
As well as using legal templates, you can simplify things by using plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s an affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using WP Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by 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.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When the user agrees to your legal terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will display inside your main navigation menu …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, niche websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type menu)
Select from a number of pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages – 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
Go here to learn more about this useful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin with over 20 customizable compliance templates for your online business …
Learn more 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 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 powered site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
Go here to learn more:
If using the services of 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 site until you can afford legal services.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documents, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do business online, it’s important that your site stays compliant with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service provided by third-party sites that you may be promoting or advertising online. Your website or blog must comply with various regulations, some of which you may not even 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 do not provide legal advice in this article. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with the law concerning your specific business.
References And Legal Resources
Here is a time-saving list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal obligations:
- FTC 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 – BBB
- 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
See Also …
- 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 legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress site using simple and cost-effective methods, resources and WordPress plugins.
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