Is your WordPress website legal? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose products or services you recommend or offer?
Online laws are designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes products or services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law won’t excuse you from being slapped with a legal notice.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly 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 consumer protection agencies, 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 has consequences for various online business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this article is to help make you aware that your website(s) are subject to legal requirements, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you may be advertising on your website, and that there are solutions that can help your websites become more compliant, such as the tools discussed further below.
Is Your Website Compliant?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer 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 policies in accordance with the laws that govern business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you endorse on your website
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Are you at risk? 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 workout.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate gives someone allergic reactions.
- You’ve told subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone copies your content and puts it up on their site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog telling visitors that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate and could derive an affiliate commission if they purchase it.
- You didn’t spell out the terms of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim that your testimonials are false and decide to sue you because of it.
- You haven’t disclosed that you received a free copy in your product review.
- Your site publishes adult content and you did not take appropriate measures to keep underage persons from accessing it.
Consider now these actual case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card details to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to issue everyone he does business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — 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 private information about children.
- 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 dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% had broken at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in violation of 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 whose policies with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could become exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
You need to ensure that your online business stays legally compliant.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Complying with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You are required to let your site users know that your website complies with legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of most companies you engage with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires websites to display certain information if using their products. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Monetizing your WordPress blog using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense policy requirements)
Or promoting your site via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell products online using companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add legal pages to your site before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you add clear disclaimers and statements on your website, especially regarding the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many sites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, 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 plan to do any type 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 interests by making sure that your website is compliant with FTC guidelines and regulations.
There are many resources online that can provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references and links to resources at the end of this article …
(Word 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 apps for your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Apps that interface with social networking sites 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 you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything on your site using affiliate marketing, or make money online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or driving visitors to your website using 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 - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
Essential Legal Pages To Add To Your Website
If your web site is lacking in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site should keep you out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and external service providers, and avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to look into adding one or more of the following pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides information about financial areas or money-making opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the right types of disclosure pages to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets users be aware that you’re not receiving any form of compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies your visitors that you may derive some form of financial or similar kind of benefit if they buy through your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Discloses to your visitors that you have received a sample or review copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Informs your readers that you have been compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs your visitors 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.
Adding Legal Content To Your WordPress Site
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory (e.g. using FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add a link to these pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu admin area …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and display clearly to all site visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your sidebar menu (or the footer section of your website or blog) to ensure that users will be able to access the information from every web page …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu and footer in WordPress using widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial:
You can find attorney-prepared downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting sites like this one:
Find Legal Forms
For more information, visit this site:
Alternatively, you can purchase a package of legal templates written by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages
(Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a quick search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your legal web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC regulations and guidelines brought into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page 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 your legal pages to your server as described earlier.
Legal Pages – Plugins
As well as using cut & paste legal templates, you can keep things really simple using a plugin.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress-driven sites worth looking into:
WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If manually creating legal pages for your website seems too time-consuming for you, then consider using WP Legal Pages …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using the WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Legal 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 your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like any other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your content 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 lock down. Page unlocks when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will display inside your main WordPress dashboard menu section …
(WP Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, review websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type menu)
Choose from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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 WordPress plugin, visit the plugin site:
Compliance Bar – WordPress Plugin For Website Compliance
complete website compliance & disclaimer solution …
Go here to learn more:
Legal Suite Pro
(Legal Suite Pro 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 of Service
- 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 license allows you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
For more information, go here:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic type of legal protection on your website until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal forms, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of business online (or plan to), you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with all laws and regulations and the terms of service and guidelines required by third-party services and products that you may decide to promote or endorse online. Your digital presence must comply with a number of regulations, many 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice in this article. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law pertaining to your business.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a time-saving list of sites we suggest you visit to better understand what your website may require to comply 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
- 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
- US Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
In Addition …
- Analytics Help – Policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features
- Google AdSense Program Policies Explained
- Google AdSense Help – Required Content
- Google AdWords – Information Collection And Use
- ClickBank – Creating Your First Product
- Facebook Platform Policies
We hope this article 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 legal resources and solutions.
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