As a website owner, the last thing you want to do is to find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Internet laws and regulations are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who sells, markets or promotes goods or services online. Every website owner 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 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, you must follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
The new laws affect various business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like contextual ads
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your digital presence 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 post is to help make you aware that your website(s) are subject to legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern business practices online, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of external providers whose products or services you may be endorsing on your website, and that there are solutions that can help your websites become fully compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Is Your Website Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice on this website. You must carry out your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law wherever you do business.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Is your business at risk? Consider for one minute what could happen to your business if these scenarios were to happen:
- A user suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate marketer gives people skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you plan to do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your site and publishes it on their site.
- There is no statement on your website letting your visitors know that you’re an affiliate for the product you are selling that you will derive an affiliate commission if they purchase using your link.
- You did not spell out the terms of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim your testimonials are all fake and try to sue you because of it.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult-related content and you did not take appropriate measures to restrict access by underage children.
Consider now these real examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information (including credit card info to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details about children.
- 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 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% were breaking at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had infringed at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were breaking 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 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 exposed to non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA or PPA Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
You need to ensure that your digital presence has the right legal pages and clearly displayed to all site users.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies
Complying 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 improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will engage with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information if using their products. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your websites using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information-based products through places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add certain legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for sale …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to include clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many business are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute website owners 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 located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
A number of business resource sites provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. See the 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)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you plan to develop social networking applications that integrate with your site, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others will require you to provide information about various 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 assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services online as an affiliate marketer, 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 need to provide on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- 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 avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
Common Legal Pages To Include In Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your web site is lacking in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your site should help your website stay out of trouble with most regulatory authorities and third-party providers, and even help to avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above, you may want to consider implementing any of the following pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Audio/Video Terms (if you provide users with access to download videos or audio files on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding correct disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets users be aware that you will not receive for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets users be aware that you may be compensated if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets site users know that you have received a review or sample copy of the product by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to visitors that you were compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs your visitors that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages Content To Your Website
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in typical web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legals directory to your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add links to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly accessible to all site visitors. You can insert these into the sidebar menu (or the footer of your site) so that visitors have access to the information from every page …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about adding links to pages on your sidebar and footer menu, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
Use Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting sites like this one:
Another option is to download a package of legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- ToS & 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 on your website for every legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as described previously.
For more details, go here:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using legal templates, you can simplify things by using plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress-powered sites worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported plugin that will help make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your website much easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages:
- Built-in Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page 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 a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like every other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your content 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 users agree to your legal terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear in your dashboard section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, review sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Type of Site drop down menu)
Choose from various built-in legal templates …
(WP 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 website to learn more about this useful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-driven sites that contains over 20 customizable legal page templates for your online presence …
For an in-depth review of this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
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 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 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 sites.
If using the services of lawyers to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your website to be legally protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal content, or a legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator Software allows you to quickly generate necessary legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you make money online, it’s important that your website remains compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business practices online and any terms of service and guidelines for third-party services and products that you may decide to promote or sell online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws intended to protect the rights of 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 are not providing legal advice here. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Additional Legal Information
Here is a time-saving list of sites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal obligations:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB
- 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
- 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress site.
"I love the way your email series "Infinite Web Content Creation Training Series" is documented and presented. It is very absorbing and captivating. The links and tutorials are interesting and educational. This has motivated me to rewrite my content following the concepts I am learning from the email series." - Mani Raju, www.fortuneinewaste.com