One of the worst situations you can find yourself in as a business owner is to break the law.
As the cybersphere continues growing at an extraordinary rate and rules constantly change, it’s vitally important to stay informed about what’s happening and ensure that your website remains compliant, especially if having a digital presence plays an important role in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for commercial gain, you must follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws has legal ramifications for several online business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, including Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If your site does not display certain legal pages to visitors (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo will not approve your digital products on their network, PayPal may suspend your account, Facebook will disapprove your applications, and you won’t be allowed to participate in many advertising and online marketing networks.
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your site(s) are subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you may be selling online, and that there are solutions that can help your online properties become compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Does Your Website Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. You must carry out your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business operates in.
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A customer has a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link allergic reactions.
- You’ve told subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not spelled out exactly what you’ll do with their details.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your website making your site visitors aware that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate and may derive a financial benefit if they buy it.
- You didn’t spell out the conditions of your refund policies.
- Someone claims the testimonials on your site are all fake and tries to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you have received a free copy in your product review.
- Your site contains adult information and you have not taken appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged children.
Consider now the real case studies of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information to complete his offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting 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 breached at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had infringed 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 entirely to the Google program whose policies they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk becoming targeted for litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s vitally important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You are required to let your site visitors know that your business complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of most companies you interact with online.
Google requires you to display certain information if using many of their services. This includes using features such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your websites with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell digital products through companies such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for vendors selling via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to display clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially if you plan to use testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this often ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take any 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 site is compliant with FTC guidelines and regulations.
There are many resources online that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. We provide references and links to useful resources to some of these at the end of this article …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Applications - Don’t Forget These
If you are planning to develop social networking applications that integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Apps that integrate with social networks also require compliance)
- If you are unsure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of sites like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products online via affiliate marketing, or make money online with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, 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 their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
Basic Legal Pages To Include In Your Website
If your website is falling short in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help keep you out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and third-party service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider implementing one or more of these pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general money-making information)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add the right disclosure information to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you are not being paid for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies your visitors that you will be compensated if they purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets your readers know that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service you’re reviewing by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to readers that you have been compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages Content To Your Website
Ideally, you should have your lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal verbiage 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 (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then easily add links to these pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and display clearly to all site visitors. You can insert these into your sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your website) so that visitors have access to legal information from all of your pages …
(It’s important to display links to legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer menu here:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to websites like the ones shown below:
Go here for more info:
Another option is to download a set of legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
These templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple search and replace to add your own 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
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates Federal Trade Commission guidelines that came into effect in March 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 pages and publish or upload the pages to your server as described earlier.
To learn more, visit this site:
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using templates, you can keep things really simple using WordPress plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress sites worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider using WP Legal Pages instead …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your site a lot easier and save you a great deal of time and effort.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages:
- Built-in Legal Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like every other page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like every other WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When users agree to the terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will appear in your main WP dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings)
With WP Legal Pages, you can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, affiliate/review sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Type of Site menu)
Choose from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – 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 this site for more details about using this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress websites and blogs with over twenty customizable compliance pages for your digital presence …
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress 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 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 one minute or less and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites.
If hiring legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a solicitor.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal documents, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator lets you easily generate basic legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online, it’s important that your website complies with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate online business practices and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines required by third-party products and services that you may be promoting or recommending online. If your website doesn’t comply 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice here. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law concerning your specific business.
Here is a time-saving list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to stay compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- 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 – 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
- US 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 you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using simple and inexpensive solutions.
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