As a business owner, the last thing you want is to learn the hard way that you have broken the law.
Internet laws and regulations 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 legal requirements won’t excuse you from being slapped with a legal notice.
New laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for commercial gain, then you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws affect several business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including pay-per-click advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your site(s) may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of complying with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be recommending online, and that there are solutions for WordPress site owners that can help your online properties become fully compliant, such as the tools that we discuss further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog Legally Compliant?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with the law wherever you do business.
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- Someone has a cardiac arrest after using your online workout program.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement informing subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you plan to do with it.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making your visitors aware that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re marketing that you could get paid a sales commission if they buy it using your link.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms and conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Visitors claim your testimonials are all fake and decide to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site contains adult information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to keep underage persons from accessing it.
Consider now these real examples 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 his offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer received a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing private information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites chosen at random, more than 90% had infringed at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached 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 with warnings or lose access 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 easy it is to risk being exposed to litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA, CPC or PPA Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
You need to ensure that your website or blog is fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Companies
Leading online companies and government trade regulatory agencies emphasize the need and importance of complying with the terms and policies of service providers.
You are expected to let your site visitors know that your website complies with laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you will do business with online.
Google requires websites to display certain information if using many of their products. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your WordPress blogs using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information products with companies such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will be required to add certain legal pages before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank vendors)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to include clear disclaimers and disclosures on your website, especially regarding the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
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 documented on their website, 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 plan to do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business by making sure that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
A number of online business resources provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. See the 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 plan to create social networking applications for your website, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others will require you to provide access to your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether you are 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 plan to promote products or services online as an affiliate marketer, or generate revenue online 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 their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
Essential Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Website
If you suspect that your website or blog lacks in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site should help your website stay out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and 3rd-party service providers, and even help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above, you may want to consider implementing any of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you provide information about affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides health or medical information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add the right disclosures to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Disclosure that informs site users that you will not receive compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Informs readers that you will benefit financially if they purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample/Review Copy – Discloses to users that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product or service by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your visitors be aware that you were compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs 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 Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you should consult your lawyer and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in typical web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder in your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder via FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then add a link to these legal pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu admin area …
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 the WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your site) so that users will be able to access the information from all of your pages …
(It’s important to display links to legal pages to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
If you need help adding links to pages on your sidebar and footer in WordPress using widgets, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
You can find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to websites like the ones shown below:
For more information, go here:
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of cut & paste website legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a simple quick search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service (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 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 server as previously described.
Go here to learn more:
WordPress Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using templates, another option is to use plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress users that you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider using WP Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you a great deal of time.
Some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When users agree to your terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- 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 dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings Area)
You have the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, affiliate websites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Page type menu)
You can also select from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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 about the benefits of using this plugin, visit the plugin website:
complete website compliance & disclaimer solution …
For an in-depth review of this plugin go here:
(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
- 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 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 websites.
If hiring legal experts to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a legal expert.
We want your website to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal documentation, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online (or plan to), it’s important that your site is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business online and any guidelines and terms of service provided by 3rd-party products and services that you may be promoting or endorsing online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws designed to protect consumers, you’re breaking the law.
Being non-compliant 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 cannot provide legal advice on our website. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Here is a useful list of additional sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your website may require to comply and meet its legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission 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 – 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
- 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 and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website or blog.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now