As a website owner, you do not want to learn the hard way that you have broken laws, rules or regulations.
Internet laws and regulations are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes goods or services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law won’t protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for material gain, then you must follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau, also known as 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 Website)
The new laws has legal ramifications for several online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, e.g. Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
Without certain legal pages on your web site (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo will not let you list your digital products for sale, PayPal may suspend your account, Facebook will disapprove web applications, and you will not be allowed into various advertising or affiliate merchant networks.
You may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your site may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose services or products you may be selling online, and that there are plugin-based solutions for WordPress users that can help your website become compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Is Your Site Legally Compliant?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice on this website. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever you do business.
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider for one moment what the implications to your business would be if any of these situations were to occur:
- A person has a heart attack after using your online workout program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link allergic reactions.
- You’ve told your subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t described exactly what you’ll do with the details you’ve collected.
- Someone copies content from your website and publishes it on their own site.
- You haven’t advised your site visitors that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you will receive a sales commission if visitors buy it.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim the testimonials on your site are false and decide to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you received a free copy in your product review.
- Your site contains adult-related content and you didn’t take appropriate measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider too these documented case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up personal information (including credit card info to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he is now required to give 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 details.
- 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 independently-conducted 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 infringed 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 entirely to the Google program with the infringement, 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:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords User
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to make sure that your website or blog is legally compliant.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in various countries emphasize the need of complying with the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your website complies with laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you engage with online.
Google requires you to display legal information when using many of their products or features. This includes using services like Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your blog with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your services or products through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell products online via merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
New 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 has already been the case, this often results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with FTC regulations.
You can find many online resources that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to create apps for your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Apps that integrate with social networking sites like Facebook also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are 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 services or products online using affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or driving visitors to your site using Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to provide on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all third-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Essential Legal Pages To Add To Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If your web site is falling short in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will help keep you out of trouble with many regulatory agencies and third-party providers, and avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above pages, you may want to look into adding one or more of these compliance pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website provides content about financial areas or money-making opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you provide users with access to media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding correct disclosure information to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets users be aware that you will not be receiving any type of payment for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to site users that you may derive some form of financial or similar type of benefit if they buy through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample/Review Copy – Informs your readers that you have received a review or sample copy of the product by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Lets visitors be aware that you have been compensated in some way 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.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal verbiage 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 legals directory to your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then easily add links to these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu admin area …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the sidebar menu (or the footer section of your website) so that users have access to the information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about adding links to pages on your sidebar, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Using Ready-Made Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting websites like the ones shown below:
To learn more, go here:
Alternatively, you can download a set of cut & paste legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC regulations brought into effect on March 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page for each 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 described earlier.
Go here for more information:
Legal Pages – Plugins
In addition to using templates, another option is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress websites and blogs worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider choosing WordPress Legal Pages …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported plugin that will make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your website much easier and save you many headaches.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the legal pages you will need in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – 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 checkbox and delete and manage these like any other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks when user agrees to your legal terms.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will be added to your WP dashboard menu …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review sites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
Select from various pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages – 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 this website for more information about using this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-driven sites with over 20 customizable legal pages for your online business …
For an in-depth review of this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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 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 site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell).
Visit this website to learn more:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal documentation is currently out of your budget, then consider at least implementing some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford legal services.
We want your website to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documentation, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you make money online, it’s important that your site is compliant with regulatory agencies and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines of third-party sites that you may decide to promote or sell 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice on this website. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with the law concerning your specific business.
Below is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to stay compliant and meet its legal obligations:
- FTC 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
- 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
- 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 legally compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add essential legal pages to your website or blog using inexpensive 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