10 Website Compliance Tips
That May Save You Thousands $$

Website Compliance - Is your website leaving you exposed?

Updated:  May 21, 2020

 

What do Facebook, Winn Dixie, Hobby Lobby, and Domino’s Pizza have in common? They have been involved in costly lawsuits due to website compliance violations.

Facebook was fined $1.44 million for violating privacy laws in Spain in September 2017 for failing to reveal how it uses the data collected about users, and failing to obtain informed consent before capitalizing on this information.

Winn Dixie and Hobby Lobby were found to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because their websites were not accessible to individuals with disabilities -- specifically visually impaired individuals.

The lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza was dismissed but still resulted in substantial legal fees.

Important Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and the information in this article is not a substitute for legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with a lawyer for advice about your specific situation. Many website owners are unaware of the laws and regulations that apply to websites. This article is intended to shed light on this area and help website owners know what things to discuss with their lawyers. It has been developed based on current guidance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Privacy Laws, UK and EU Laws, Website Accessibility Guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium, and the Americans with Disabilities Act which may change at any time.

Does Website Compliance Apply To You?

While your website may not impact millions of people as these websites do, you are still required to comply with the same laws and regulations as these “big guys.” And failure to do so leaves you vulnerable to expensive penalties, fines and, in some cases, criminal charges.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t operate my business in Spain, the UK or Europe, so I don’t have to worry about this,” THINK AGAIN! As a website owner, you have no way to prevent people who live in... or visit... these places from using your site. So it’s best to make sure your website complies with laws and regulations that apply to your specific business.

10 Tips That Ensure Website Compliance

By ensuring your site has these important elements, you will protect yourself from unnecessary legal risk AND help your visitors feel safe -- safe enough to get to know you, like you, trust you, purchase from you, and become ambassadors for your brand as they share your business, products, and services with others.

1.  Business Address

To comply with UK and European law, sole proprietorships and partnerships must display the address of the primary place of business (this can be a post office box).

For search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, it’s best to include this in the footer on every page of your website and ensure it is consistent with all your other online profiles.

If you’re a UK registered business, the website must display the Company information (business name, place of registration, registered number, registered office address and if it is a member of a trade association).

2. Anti-Spam Policy

An anti-spam policy tells your website visitors how you:

  • Control and prevent spam,
  • Address any problems that might occur from using anti-spam technology,
  • Prohibit users from sending spam messages using your systems,
  • Make it possible for users to stop receiving unwanted messages from you,
  • Notify users of changes to the policy,
  • Provide a way for users to contact you.

The anti-spam policy can be included in the Terms & Conditions.

3. Privacy Policy

A privacy policy (or data protection notice) tells your website visitors exactly what data you collect from them and how it will be used.  It must also explain what cookies will be created and their purpose. And it should also include a statement about age restrictions -- restricting use of the site to visitors who are over a certain age (ie: 13 years old, 18 years old).

For example, if you have email or newsletter opt-in forms, you collect names and email addresses for the purpose of providing news, information, tools, resources, and details about new products and services.

If your website has a shopping cart, it most likely uses cookies to collect information about browsing history and purchases to provide personalized recommendations and enhance their shopping experience.

A privacy policy is an important tool for building trust and gaining the confidence of your website visitors because they understand:

  • What information you’re collecting,
  • How you will use it, and
  • They can opt out at any time.

This helps visitors know that your site a safe place to interact, share, and buy.

4. Terms & Conditions

Terms & Conditions (also known as “Terms of Use”) let your visitors know what behaviors are acceptable on your website and what visitors can expect from you.

Terms of Use:

  • Limit your legal liability,
  • Protect your intellectual property,
  • Clarify how you will exercise your right to refuse service,
  • Define your refund policy,
  • Describe how disputes will be handled,
  • And more.

Because Terms & Conditions are a legal contract, it's important to review and update them each year to ensure they are up-to-date and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

5.  Refund Policy

You'll want to ensure that your refund policy is clearly communicated and easy to find.  A best practice is to include the refund policy in your Terms & Conditions AND list it separately as a document by itself. That way it won’t be missed.

If you sell products or services to customers in Europe, refunds are mandatory.  So it's a good idea to make sure your policy covers all the details like:

  • Limitations on returns,
  • Who pays for shipping,
  • How long it takes to process refunds,
  • What happens if items are damaged or don’t arrive in the condition expected.

6. Comment Policy

The comment policy is used for websites that have blogs that allow users to submit comments. It informs visitors how you will handle these comments.  It also describes when, why, and how you will delete comments, and whether there is an appeal policy for deleted comments.

Because of anti-discrimination laws, this can be a tricky area.  It’s important to ensure you are consistent in the way you apply your comment policy and that you do not delete comments based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, gender, etc.

The best rule of thumb is to consult a lawyer if you have any doubts or questions about deleting a comment.

7. Disclaimers

Certain businesses or business activities may require a disclaimer be posted.  Here are a few of the most common disclaimers website owners need to be aware of.

Legal Disclaimer

A legal disclaimer is used when a website is posting information about legal matters. It explains to users that the information provided is for informative purposes only and is not legal advice. It recommends that users seek the counsel of an attorney for legal advice.

Medical Disclaimer

A medical disclaimer is used when a website shares information about injuries, diseases, exercise, therapies, devices, health products, supplements, and medications. It explains that the information provided is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. It recommends that users seek medical advice from a doctor or other licensed healthcare provider.

8. Affiliate Disclosure

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires all businesses who receive affiliate income to clearly disclose that they are being paid whenever someone purchases the affiliate program's products and services through the links provided on the affiliate's website.

In order to comply with the regulations, these disclosures must be:

  • Frequent - every page that promotes an affiliate product or service must include the disclosures
  • Clear - it must be clear that you are being paid and, if that compensation significantly affects the where you place those brands or information on your website, you must clearly state this fact.
  • Conspicuous - the disclosure should be clear, easy to see, and begin with the word “Disclosure”
  • Action-Free - the visitor should not have to scroll, click, hover, or take any action to learn that you get paid when they purchase through your affiliate links.

9. Copyright Notice

If your website contains original content, your content is copyrighted and, technically, you do not have to post this notice.  It is, however, a good way to discourage unauthorized use of your content.

A copyright notice makes it clear that the content is legally yours, others do not have the right to use it without your permission and, if you do allow others to use your material, you still own it.

Your copyright notice can be included in your Terms & Conditions. It’s also a good idea to include the abbreviation in the footer on every page of your website in the format © [Year] - [Copyright Holder] where the Year is the year you first published your website, and the Copyright Holder is typically your business name (or your name if you conduct business under your own name).

10. Accessibility for Individuals With Disabilities

So far, most of the disability lawsuits related to websites have focused on making sure that visually impaired people can use the site without difficulty.  However, as video content becomes more popular, websites that fail to provide video captioning or transcriptions for hearing impaired visitors might also receive greater attention soon.

To find out more about Website Accessibility Compliance, check out A Beginner’s Guide to ADA Compliance for Websites, the ADA Tool Kit and How to Make Your Website and Web Tools Accessible.

When it comes to website compliance, it costs much less to create and publish these documents on your site than it will if your site is in violation of the laws.

The Resource I Use to Ensure Website Compliance for Me and My Clients

Disclosure:  The links provided below are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may receive compensation for referring you. This will not result in additional charges for you. In fact, in some cases, you might actually receive a discount or other incentive for purchases made after clicking my affiliate link.

As I mentioned earlier, the laws and regulations that govern website compliance are subject to change at any time. So, for me, it was important to find a resource that not only helped me get the right legal documentation in place to make my website compliant, but one that would also help me stay compliant.

 

That’s why I love TermsFeed.

 

There are no contracts… no retainers… just the legal documents I need… tailored to my unique business… when I need them… at a price I can afford.

 

AND… the folks at TermsFeed help ensure my ongoing compliance by routinely monitoring all the laws, regulations, and acts and notifying me when it’s time to update my policies! How easy is that?

 

Have a question about a specific law or regulation? Check out the TermsFeed blog! It’s full of helpful articles and information that will enable you to remain well-informed. 

 

Need legal documents for your other platforms? TermsFeed will customize your policies for each platform you use like your mobile apps, Facebook pages, and more. 

 

No website? No problem! TermsFeed will host your policies for FREE! This is especially helpful for online businesses that use Facebook or other platforms as a storefront and don’t have or need a website of their own yet.

How TermsFeed Works

Get the legal documents you need… tailored to your unique business needs… in less than 10 minutes!

 

  1. Select the policy or contract you need.
  2. Answer a few questions.
  3. Select your platforms.
  4. TermsFeed generates your custom documents.
  5. Edit your documents if you like.
  6. Pay
  7. Download your documents or allow TermsFeed to host them for you for free!

Ready for greater peace of mind knowing that your legal compliance is covered?

Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post. To read my Disclosure Policy in its entirety, click here. Thank you for supporting my site!