One of the worst predicaments you can find yourself in as a business owner is to break the law.
Internet laws and regulations were designed to protect consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes products or services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law will not protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your website 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 Better Business Bureau, also referred to as the BBB. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws affect various business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like pay-per-click advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If there are no legal pages on your website (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo won’t approve digital products on their network, PayPal could suspend your account, Facebook could reject your web applications, and you will not be allowed to enrol in most advertising and online marketing networks.
If your digital presence is not in compliance, you could also face a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this article is to help make you aware that your website may be required to comply with legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern online business practices, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be recommending online, and that there are solutions for WordPress website owners that can help your sites become fully compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Is Your Site Legally Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice about your website or business. As stated above, this article is designed only to help make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal policies in accordance with federal, regional or local laws that govern your business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of third-party companies whose products or services you promote on your website
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for one moment what could happen to your business if any of these scenarios were to take place:
- Someone has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin cream you promote as an affiliate gives people an adverse reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you’ll do with it.
- Someone steals content from your website and puts it up on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog informing visitors that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re recommending that you may derive a commission if they purchase via your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Visitors claim the testimonials on your site are all fake and try to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult-related information and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider also the documented case studies of costly compliance breaches described:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal information to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to issue a copy of the judgement to everyone he does business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a massive $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 internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ 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% 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 whose policies with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being exposed to litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- 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 make sure that your website is legally compliant.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Compliance with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are expected to let your visitors know that your business complies with all necessary legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will engage with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information if using many of their services or product features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue online with your sites with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense policy requirements)
Or promoting your services via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell digital products through places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will be required to add various legal pages before your products can be approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for vendors selling via ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially when using product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Site Is Compliant
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 flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this often results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to 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 by making sure that your website is compliant with all FTC guidelines and regulations.
You can find many sites that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. See the additional references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications - Don’t Forget These
If you are planning to create social networking applications for your site, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether or not you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything online using affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, 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)
Basic Legal Pages To Include In Your Site
If you suspect that your website or blog lacks in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site should help you keep out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and external providers, and even help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above pages, you may want to consider implementing any of the following pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you promote or sell affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets visitors be aware that you’re not receiving any kind of compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your visitors know that you will derive some form of financial or similar form of benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through an affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Explains to readers that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to visitors that you have been compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users 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 Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been done, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder on your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then easily add links to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Where To Display Legal Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly visible to your visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your site) so that visitors can access legal information from all of your pages …
(It’s important to display legal information to visitors on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your sidebar using widgets, see this tutorial:
Use Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-prepared website forms and agreements just by searching online, or going to websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
Alternatively, you can download a set of cut and paste legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Website Legal Pages)
These templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with simple search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects Federal Trade Commission regulations and guidelines that came into effect on March 2012)
- 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 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 the pages to your web server as previously described.
Go here for more details:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using templates, you can keep things very simple using plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If the idea of creating legal pages manually feels too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you a great deal of time and effort.
Here are just some of the benefits of using the WP Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like any other page on your website.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to 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 every other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When users agree to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear inside your dashboard menu section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view your legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Screen)
You have the option of easily creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review websites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Create different legal pages)
Select from several built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Pre-configured 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
To learn more this useful plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar Plugin is a complete compliance and disclaimer solution for your site …
To learn more about this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro)
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
- Terms & Conditions
- 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. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell).
If hiring a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then at least consider implementing some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your business to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal page templates, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you do any kind of business online, it’s important that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by 3rd-party sites that you may decide to promote or sell online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws designed 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 provide legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a useful list of additional sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your website to comply and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
- 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 provided above to quickly add legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using simple resources and plugins.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now