One of the worst things that can happen to you as a business owner is to break the law.
Internet laws, regulations, and guidelines are designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who markets, sells or promotes goods and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements will not protect someone from taking legal action against you.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for commercial gain, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
These laws has legal ramifications for several online business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, like display advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If your digital presence is not compliant, you could end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your website(s) are subject to legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern online business practices, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of external providers whose products or services you may be using on your site, and that there are plugin-based solutions for WordPress that can help your sites become fully compliant, such as the tools that we list further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice in this article. You must carry out your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all laws wherever you do business.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider for one moment what could happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- Someone suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online workout program.
- The skin care products you sell as an affiliate gives someone skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not spelled out exactly what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website informing your site users that you’re an affiliate for the product you are selling that you may get paid financial benefits if visitors purchase via your link.
- You have not spelled out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Someone claims that your testimonials are false and decides to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site contains adult-related content and you did not take sufficient measures to restrict access by underaged children.
Consider also 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 personal information (including credit card information to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’re now required to issue 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 whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. 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 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were breaking at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in violation of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had breached 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 notices or lose access to the Google program whose policies with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how a website owner can easily be exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence remains fully compliant with the law.
Complying With Third-Party Companies
Complying with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You must let your site users know that your website complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you will do business with online.
Google requires you to display legal information when using many of their products. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your website using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense display advertising policy requirements)
Or promoting your services through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell digital products via places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will be required to add various legal pages to your site before your products can be approved for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank vendors)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policies on your site, especially when using product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites 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 website owners 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 any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by making sure that your site is compliant with FTC guidelines and regulations.
There are many 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 useful resources at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to create apps for your site users, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others will require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything on your site using affiliate marketing, or generate revenue online with Google AdSense, ads for Amazon or eBay products, or driving visitors to your site with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to display on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you’ve been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Basic Legal Pages To Add To Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If your website is lacking in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your website will keep you out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and external service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider implementing any of these compliance pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides general health or medical content)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you allow users to download media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding correct disclosure information to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets your readers know that you will not receive any form of compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies your visitors that you may receive compensation if they purchase through your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets site users be aware that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Informs site users that you were compensated in some form 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 website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you should have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder on your web server and uploading your legal pages to this folder using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then add a link to your legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to your WordPress sidebar (or the footer section of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors have access to legal information from every page …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your website’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your sidebar and footer, see this tutorial:
Using Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-prepared internet forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting sites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
To learn more, visit this site:
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of cut & paste website legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects Federal Trade Commission regulations that came into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new 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 these to your server as described previously.
Go here for more info:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using copy & paste templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some WordPress plugins that you may be interested in checking out:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing WP Legal Pages instead …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you many headaches.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages:
- Built-in Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages like any other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like every other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When users agree to your legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will display inside your main navigation area …
(WP Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view 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 types of sites, such as business websites, review websites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Create different legal page types)
You can also select from a number of 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
Go here to learn more about using this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin containing over twenty customizable legal templates for your web presence …
Learn more here:
(Legal Suite Pro)
Legal Suite Pro Plugin 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 Plugin 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. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
If hiring legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then at least consider implementing some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford professional assistance from a solicitor.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documentation, or a WordPress legal pages plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of business online (or are planning to), you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate how business online is done and any terms of service and guidelines for third-party services and products that you may decide to promote or offer online. Your internet presence must comply with a whole set of regulations, many 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we provide no legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with the law in your country or region.
Here is a time-saving list of websites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your website to stay compliant 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
- 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
- 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 presented above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your site using simple and cost-effective legal resources and solutions.
"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum