Is your website legal? Do you know if your site is breaking the law, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose products or services you sell or promote?
As digital business continues growing at an overwhelming speed and rules constantly change, it’s vitally important to try and stay on top of what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains legally compliant, especially if having a digital presence is an essential factor in your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the US-based BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
The introduction of these new laws affect several online business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your website does not display certain legal pages (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank won’t allow you to list digital products, PayPal may suspend your account, Facebook could suspend your applications, and you won’t be accepted into various advertising and affiliate merchant networks.
If your website is not in compliance, you could also face a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this guide is to make you aware that your site are required to comply with various legalities according to laws that govern business practices online, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be selling online, and that there are solutions that can help your website become fully compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Does Your Website Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice on this website. As stated previously, the aim of this article is only to make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal requirements 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 use
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider what could happen to your business if any of these scenarios were to occur:
- Someone suffers a heart attack after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate gives a number of users skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement letting subscribers know that you will not 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 own site.
- There is no statement on your site letting your site users know that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re selling and could derive a sales commission if they purchase the product using your link.
- You have not spelled out the terms of your refund policies.
- Someone claims the testimonials on your site are false and decides to sue you because of it.
- You didn’t disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site publishes adult information and you haven’t taken sufficient measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider also the actual examples of costly compliance breaches described:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information to complete his offer. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to issue everyone he does business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer received 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 details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. 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% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in violation of at least two 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 with warnings or lose access entirely 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 you could become exposed to the risk of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
You need to make sure that your online business has the right legal pages and clearly displayed to all you site users.
Compliance With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Big companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the need and importance of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your site users know that your business complies with legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you engage with online.
Google requires you to display certain information if using many of their services or product features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Monetizing your site with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell products online through places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will be required to add a number of legal pages before your products are approved for selling via their networks …
(Policy requirements for selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and statements on your website, especially regarding the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many websites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of money-making activity 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 site is compliant with all FTC guidelines.
There are many business resources that can provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. We provide references and links to resources to a number of these at the end of this article …
(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 applications that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything online as an affiliate marketer, or generate revenue with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to provide on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you have been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies)
Essential Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Website
If you suspect that your website or blog is lacking in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following compliance pages to your website should help your business stay out of trouble with many regulatory agencies and 3rd-party service providers, and avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to look into adding any of these pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you provide information about affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides health or medical information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding correct disclosure information to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you will not receive compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to readers that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets your readers be aware that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Lets visitors be aware that you were compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets readers 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 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 this has been completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your legal pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
Where To Display Legal Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly visible to all visitors. You can add these to the sidebar menu (or place them in the footer section of your website) so that users have access to the information from all of your pages …
(Display links to your legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your sidebar or footer, refer to this tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms – Attorney-prepared legal forms)
For more information, go here:
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of cut & paste website legal templates created by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- Terms of Service & 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 each legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload the pages to your server as previously described.
For more details, go here:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using legal templates, you can keep things really simple using plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site a lot easier and save you a great deal of time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages:
- Built-in Legal 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 clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit all legal pages like any other page on your site.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information is then 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 WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks only when the 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 display inside your main dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings)
With WP Legal Pages, you can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type dropdown menu)
Choose from several 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 the plugin website to learn more this plugin:
total website compliance & disclaimer solution …
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
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 Plugin – 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. 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 the plugin on all of your sites.
Go here for more information:
If using the services of legal experts to create your online legal documentation is currently out of your budget, consider implementing some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a lawyer.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using 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 are planning to), you need to ensure that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines for 3rd-party products and services that you may be promoting or selling online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws designed to protect consumer rights, 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 offer no legal advice on this website. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with the law in your country or region.
References And Legal Resources
Below is a useful list of additional sites we suggest you visit to better understand what may be required of your site to stay compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- United States Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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 compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add essential legal pages to your site using simple resources and WordPress plugins.
"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)