As a business owner, the last thing you want to do is to suddenly find out that you have been operating on the wrong side of the law.
Internet laws are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes products or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t prevent someone from taking legal action against you.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for commercial gain, you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Look up “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 has implications for various business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, e.g. Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your online business is not compliant, you could also end up facing a multitude of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your site are subject to certain legal requirements according to laws that govern online business practices, the importance of complying with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose products or services you may be recommending on your website, and that there are easy solutions that can help your site become more compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Is Your Site Breaking The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. As stated previously, 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 the laws governing online business practices and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose services or products you recommend on your website
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Consider what the implications to your business would be if any of these situations were to occur:
- A customer suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone steals content from your site and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your website telling visitors that you are promoting a product as an affiliate that you could derive financial benefits if visitors purchase it.
- You didn’t spell out the conditions of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim your testimonials are all fake and try to sue you.
- You did not disclose that you received a free copy of a product in your review.
- Your site publishes adult-related content and you did not take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged children.
Consider now these actual case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card info to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to give everyone they do business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- 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, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% were breaking at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had infringed 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 cautions 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 non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA or PPA Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
You need to ensure that your website or blog is fully compliant with the law.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies
Complying with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your business complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of most companies you will interact with online.
Google requires websites to display legal information if using their products. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue online with your online properties using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense online advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your services using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information products using companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will be required to add legal pages to your site before your products are approved for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for using ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policies on your site, especially when concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many business are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, this typically ends up with 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 plan to do any type 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 is compliant with FTC guidelines and regulations.
You can find many business resource sites that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. We provide references and links to resources to a number of these at the end of this article …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to create apps for your site, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue online with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or using Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to include on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
What Legal Pages Should I Add To My Site To Be Protected From Legal Compliance Issues?
If your website or blog is lacking in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your website should help keep you out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and third-party service providers, and even help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to look into adding any of these pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of content disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs your readers that you’re not being paid for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies users that you may benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets readers be aware that you have received a review or sample copy of the product by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Informs users that you have been 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 satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in typical web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder 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 these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu feature …
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly visible to all site visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your website) so that users have access to legal information from every page …
(Display legal pages to users on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer using widgets here:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and forms and agreements just by searching online, or going to sites like the ones listed below:
Alternatively, you can download a package of cut & paste legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates new FTC guidelines that came into effect on March 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for every legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your server as described previously.
Visit this website to learn more:
WordPress Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use a plugin.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress-powered websites worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin)
If the idea of manually creating legal pages for your site seems too time-consuming for you, then consider installing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you loads of headaches.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in a few minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Content editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to your pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When a user agrees to the terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- Additional Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will display inside your dashboard section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, review sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
Select from various pre-written legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Pre-configured 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 WordPress plugin containing over twenty customizable compliance templates for your site …
For an in-depth article about this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
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
- Terms And 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 secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them 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 less than one minute and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell).
Visit this site for more information:
If hiring legal experts to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a lawyer.
We want your website to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal documentation, or a WordPress legal pages plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator quickly generates basic legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of business online (or plan to), it’s important that your website complies with regulatory agencies and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines of 3rd-party products and services that you may decide to promote or sell online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws designed to protect the rights of consumers, you’re breaking the law.
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, please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a time-saving list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what may be required of your website to comply and meet its legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – Better Business Bureau
- 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using simple solutions.
"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)