Is your WordPress website compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking the law, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose services or products you are offering or recommending?
Online laws and regulations were designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes goods and services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t protect someone from taking legal action against you.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your website for material 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 (US based) Better Business Bureau, also referred to as the BBB. Search online for information about “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau)
These laws affect several online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, e.g. PPC advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your website is not compliant, you could also end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your site may be required to comply with certain legalities in accordance with the laws that govern businesses online, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of other providers whose products or services you may be recommending on your website, and that there are solutions for WordPress users that can help your websites become more compliant, such as the tools discussed further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog Breaking The Law?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. As stated earlier, this article is designed only to help make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern your business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of 3rd-party companies whose services or products you endorse
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider what would happen to your business if any of the following situations were to occur:
- A user has a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link an adverse reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you’ll do with it.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their site.
- There is no statement on your website making your site visitors aware that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate and could get paid a commission if visitors end up buying using your link.
- You didn’t spell out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- A visitor claims that the testimonials on your site are misleading and decides to sue you as a result.
- You have not disclosed that you received a free copy in a product review.
- Your website includes adult information and you did not take sufficient measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider now the documented examples of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up personal information to complete his offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, they’re now required to issue everyone he does 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 users from scraping UIDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted 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 breach of at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had breached 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 with warnings or lose access to the Google program with the violation, 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:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords User
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s imperative to ensure that your website stays fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies Terms And Policies
Complying with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you interact with online.
Google requires websites to display certain information when using their products. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your WordPress sites using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
Or promoting your business through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell digital products using 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 vendors selling through ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to display clear disclaimers and policy statements on your website, especially when concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Site Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, this typically 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 any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by ensuring that your site is compliant with all FTC regulations.
A number of sites provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. We provide additional references at the end of this article …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to create apps that integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with access to 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 companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services online as an affiliate marketer, or making money 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 need to provide on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies)
Common Legal Pages To Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your website is lacking in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your website will help you stay out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and 3rd-party providers, and even help you avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider implementing any of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides general health or medical content)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Video/Audio Terms (if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right web content disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs readers that you are not being paid for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to readers that you may derive some form of financial or similar kind of benefit if they act on your recommendation and buy through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample/Review Copy – Disclosure that informs visitors that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product or service by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to readers that you were compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with 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 To Your WordPress Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory on your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add links to your pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu admin area …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Site
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and display clearly to visitors. You can add these to your sidebar (or the footer of your website) to ensure that users will be able to access legal information from every page …
(Display links to legal information on all of your website’s pages)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar, refer to this tutorial:
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted forms and agreements by searching online, or visiting websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Another option is to download a package of website legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC guidelines brought into effect in March 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for every legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as described previously.
Visit this site to learn more:
Legal Pages – WordPress Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress users that you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If manually setting up legal pages for your website seems too time-consuming for you, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages instead …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site a lot easier and save you a great deal of time and effort.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages are:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like any WP page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your website or blog pages and the information will be 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 other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When a user agrees to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will display inside your dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Screen)
You have the option of creating legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites with products, niche websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
Select from various built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – 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
Visit the plugin website to learn more about the benefits of using this handy plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users with over 20 customizable legal templates for your digital business …
To learn more about this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
This 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 – 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. Your legal pages can be 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.
For more details, 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 site until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your website to be legally protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-drafted legal content, or a WordPress legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do business online, you need to make sure that your site is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business practices online and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by third-party services and products that you may be promoting or selling online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws intended to protect consumer rights, 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, we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice on this website. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with the law pertaining to your business.
Below is a useful list of additional sites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal obligations:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program
- 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
- Google 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 essential legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using inexpensive methods and resources.
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