Is your WordPress website legal? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose services or products you recommend or sell?
Online laws are designed to protect consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes products and 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.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, then you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
The laws affect several business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your site does not display certain pages to visitors (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank will not let you list digital products on their network, PayPal could shut down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook could suspend web applications, and you won’t be accepted into most advertising and online merchant networks.
If your online business 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 website may be required to comply with legal requirements, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be endorsing on your site, and that there are easy solutions for WordPress that can help your site become fully compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. As previously stated, 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 and regulations that govern business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of providers whose services or products you use on your website or blog
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for a moment what the implications to your business would be if these situations were to take place:
- Someone has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate gives someone skin rashes.
- You’ve told your subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their own website.
- You haven’t advised your visitors that you’re an affiliate for the product you are selling and may earn a financial benefit if they decide to purchase through your link.
- You did not spell out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- A visitor claims the testimonials on your site are all fake and tries to sue you because of it.
- You haven’t disclosed that you received a free copy of a product you are reviewing.
- Your website includes adult-related content and you did not take sufficient measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider now the following actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card info to complete a debt reduction offer). Cost = $390,000.
- 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 private information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked 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 2 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 cautions or lose access entirely to the Google program whose policies they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could be exposed to the risks of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords User
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to make sure that your website stays legally compliant.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Companies – ToS, Policies, etc.
Complying with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are expected to let your site users know that your website complies with all necessary legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of most companies you do business with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires websites to display certain information if using many of their products or features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Monetizing your WordPress site with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense advertising – policy requirements)
And even promoting your business through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information-based products through places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add various legal information before your products are approved for sale in their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank digital product vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you include clear disclaimers and statements on your site, especially when concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many businesses are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute site owners 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 any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best protect your business by ensuring that your site is compliant with all FTC guidelines.
Many resources online provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. See the additional references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running afoul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you plan to develop applications for your site, sites like Facebook, Twitter and others require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Apps for social networks also require compliance)
- If you are not sure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services on your site via affiliate marketing, or monetize your pages 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 need to provide on your site to comply with all 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, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
Basic Legal Information Pages You Should Include In Your Website
If you suspect that your website falls short in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following pages to your site will help you keep out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and external providers, and avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
In addition to the above, you may want to consider implementing one or more of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides content about financial areas or income opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Video/Audio Terms (e.g. if you provide users with access to media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right disclosure information to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Disclosure that informs your visitors that you are not receiving any kind of compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies site users that you may derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Explains to users that you have received a review or sample copy of the product you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Lets visitors know that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- 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.
Adding Legal Information Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal verbiage 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 in your server, and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder using FTP …
(Upload legal information pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu administration …
Displaying Legal Information Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your pages are fully up-to-date and display clearly to visitors. You can add links to your pages to the sidebar (or the footer of your site) to ensure that visitors can access legal information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to legal information to users on all of your site’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu using widgets here: How To Add Widgets To WordPress
You can find attorney-drafted downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting websites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms)
For more information, go here: FindLegalForms.com
Another option is to purchase a package of cut & paste website legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Website Legal Information Pages)
Cut & Paste website templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your legal web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use: includes inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new page for every legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish, or upload your legal pages to your web server as previously described.
To learn more, visit this website: Website Legal Pages
Legal Information Pages – WordPress Plugins
In addition to using legal templates, another option is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress-driven sites worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If the idea of setting up legal pages manually seems too time-consuming for you, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a low-priced and well supported premium WordPress plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site, and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages:
- Built-in Templates – Includes over 17 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 just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like every other WP page.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you 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. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released …
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear inside your main WP dashboard section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites, affiliate websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
Choose from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Templates)
Go here to learn more this plugin: WordPress Legal Pages
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-driven websites containing over 20 customizable legal page templates for your digital business …
Go here to learn more about this plugin: Compliance Bar Plugin – Website Compliance Plugin For WordPress
(WP Legal Disclaimer Pro Plugin)
WP Legal Disclaimer Pro Plugin lets you easily install nine professionally-written legal pages:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Social Media Disclosure
- Medical Disclaimer
- Terms And Conditions
- Earnings Disclaimer
(WP Legal Disclaimer Pro Plugin For WordPress – Nine Professionally-written legal forms)
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 less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use the plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
More info: WP Legal Disclaimer Pro Plugin
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of business online, it’s important that your website stays compliant with all government regulations and the guidelines and terms of service of third-party services and products that you may be promoting or endorsing online. Your internet presence must comply with numerous regulations, many of which you may not even be aware of.
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, we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. 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.
Here is a time-saving list of websites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to stay compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- Federal Trade Commission 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 – 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
- US 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a legally compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress site.