If you do any kind of business online, you do not want to learn the hard way that you have broken any rules or regulations.
As the digital way of life continues to grow at such a fast pace and rules keep changing, it’s absolutely vital to stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your site remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if having a digital presence plays an important role in your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for commercial gain, then you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws affect various online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, like contextual ads
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If there are no legal pages on your site (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank will not approve digital products on their network, PayPal could suspend your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook could reject web applications, and you will not be allowed to promote various advertising and affiliate marketing networks.
You may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
The purpose of this article is to help make you aware that your site(s) may be required to comply with legal requirements, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose products or services you may be recommending on your website, and that there are plugin-based solutions for WordPress that can help your online properties become fully compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Does Your Site Comply With The Law?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice on this website. 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 and regulations governing business online and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose products or services you use on your website or blog
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider for a minute what would happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A customer has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you will do with the information you’ve collected.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your website making your visitors aware that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re promoting that you will receive a financial benefit if they end up purchasing through your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms of your return policies.
- Your visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are all fake and try to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult content and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider too the following actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information to complete a debt reduction offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it 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 picked 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% were in breach 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 cautions or lose access entirely to the Google program with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could become exposed to the risk of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords User
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s vitally important to make sure that your digital presence stays fully compliant with the law.
Complying With Third-Party Services Terms And Policies
Complying with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your business complies with legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you engage with online.
Google requires your site to display certain information when using their services or features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue online with your sites using Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense online advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your products through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell products online via places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages before your products are approved for sale in their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for selling through ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Comply
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business 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 companies for breaches of regulation 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 physically located in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by making sure that your site is compliant with FTC guidelines.
There are many resources online that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. See our additional references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you plan to create social networking applications for your website, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others will require you to provide information about various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services online using affiliate marketing, or making money online with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or use Google AdWords pay-per-click ads to drive visitors to your pages, 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 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 act now and take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Common Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Site
If you suspect that your website or blog is lacking in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your website will keep you out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and 3rd-party providers, and even help you avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to look into adding one or more of these legal pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general information about financial areas or income opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right type of content disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Discloses to visitors that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users be aware that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets users be aware that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Lets readers be aware that you have been compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets visitors know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with 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 Content To Your WordPress Site
Ideally, you should consult a lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been done, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legal folder to your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then add links to these pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu feature …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can insert these into your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your site) to ensure that visitors will be able to access the information from all your pages …
(Display legal pages to users on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial about displaying links to pages on your WP sidebar or footer, see this step-by-step tutorial:
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable internet forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to websites like this one:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
For more details, visit this site:
Another option is to download a set of cut and paste legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for each 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 previously described.
WordPress Legal Plugins
As well as using copy & paste templates, another option is to use a plugin.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you need in a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will then 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 website.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. When a user agrees to your legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will be added to your main navigation menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Screen)
You can easily create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, review sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Create different legal page types)
You can also select from various 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
Visit the plugin website to learn more about the benefits of using this great plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress sites containing over 20 customizable compliance templates for your online presence …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(Legal Suite Pro)
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 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 this plugin on all of your websites.
To learn more, go here:
If hiring a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some type of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire a solicitor.
We want your site to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal page templates, or a WordPress legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator quickly generates essential legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online, you need to ensure that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines required by third-party products and services that you may be promoting or endorsing online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws intended to protect 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, we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Additional Legal Information
Here is a useful 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
- FTC 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
See Also …
- Google 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
We hope this article has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your site 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)