Is your WordPress site legal? Do you know if your site is breaking any rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose services or products you advertise or recommend?
Internet laws were designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes goods and 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.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the US-based BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – Better Business Bureau)
The new laws has legal consequences for several business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including contextual advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
In addition, you may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your website(s) are subject to legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern online businesses, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you may be endorsing online, and that there are plugin-based solutions for WordPress that can help your websites become more compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Is Your Website Breaking The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. As stated previously, this article is designed only to help make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal requirements in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations governing your business and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of 3rd-party companies whose services or products you offer on your website or blog
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider for a minute what would happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A customer has a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin care products you sell as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you plan to do with the details you have collected.
- Someone steals content from your website and publishes it on their own website.
- There is no statement on your site letting your site users know that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate that you may receive a commission if they buy through your link.
- You don’t spell out the terms of your refund or return policies.
- Visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are misleading and try to sue you.
- You have not disclosed that you received a free copy of a product in your review.
- Your website publishes adult-related information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider now these actual case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up personal information to complete his offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to provide everyone he does business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- 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 does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were in breach 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 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 cautions or lose access entirely to the Google program they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could easily be exposed to the risk of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s vitally important to ensure that your digital presence stays fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you will interact with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires your site to display legal information if using their services. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your blogs using Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense display advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your business using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell digital products through merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add legal pages to your site before your products can be approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for using ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policy statements on your site, especially when concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
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 flaunt) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by making sure that your site complies 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 site comply with FTC requirements. See the references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to create social networking applications that integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with information about various legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are 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 plan to promote products or services online using affiliate marketing, or monetize your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, 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 need to include on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
Essential Legal Pages To Include In Your Website
If your website is falling short in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your website will help your business keep out of trouble with many regulatory agencies and external service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider including any of these legal pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general information about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Audio/Video Terms (e.g. if you provide users with access to media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you will not receive for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Informs your visitors that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and buy through affiliate links on your site.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Disclosure that informs site users that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Informs your readers that you have been compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets users know 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 display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult a lawyer and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legal directory to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this directory via FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly accessible to your visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the sidebar (or the footer of your site) so that visitors will be able to access the information from every web page …
(Display links to your legal pages to users on all of your website’s pages)
To learn more about adding links to pages on your WordPress sidebar using widgets, see this tutorial:
Use Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and website forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting websites like this one:
To learn more, visit this website:
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of cut & paste legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages 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 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
- Federal Trade Commission 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 WordPress 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 your legal pages to your server as described earlier.
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using templates, another option for adding legal pages to your site is to use a plugin.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress-powered websites and blogs that you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site a lot easier and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the benefits of using WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – Content editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks only when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will display inside your main navigation menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, affiliate websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Type of Site dropdown menu)
You can also choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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 WordPress plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users that contains over 20 customizable legal page templates for your website …
For an in-depth article about this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro 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 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 less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites.
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire a solicitor.
We want your website to be legally protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal forms, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator lets you quickly generate necessary legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you are making money online, it’s important that your site is compliant with government regulations and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines of 3rd-party sites that you may decide to promote or sell online. If your website doesn’t comply 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 are not offering legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with the law concerning your specific business.
Additional Legal Information
Here is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what may be required of your site to remain compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC 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
- United States Copyright Office
In Addition …
- 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 provided above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your WordPress website using simple methods and resources.
"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