Rules are rules, and the dozen or so legal requirements imposed on social media, commercial and nonprofit websites exist to protect not just internet users but digital marketers and developers, too. The rules apply to everything from how users navigate websites, while others aim to promote fair play when proprietary web content is copied or shared. Want to host an internet contest or sweepstakes? Rules exist for those, too.
Many of the mandates have been around a while, but as the web has expanded and times have changed, conformance complexities have mushroomed. Abiding by web rules not only leads to a fruitful user experience, but also may also provide you with a legal shield should user lawsuits arise. Along with the most frequent web-compliance regulations are a few “best practices’’ that web users and digital marketers can expect to encounter.
Adhere to Website ADA Compliance Guidelines
No digital marketer wants site visitors to struggle to access their web content, but many of them continue to fall short. That’s reflected in the rising volume of federal ADA lawsuits from those with limited vision, hearing and physical movement alleging noncompliance. The U.S. Department of Justice, the ADA’s enforcer, has brought dozens of civil lawsuits in for hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties recent years against scofflaws – a few more than once – to reinforce the importance of compliance.
Compliance won’t be difficult if you embrace the disability-friendly guidelines of Web Content Accessibility (WCAG) 2.0, launched in 2008, and the 2018 expanded update, WCAG 2.1. These are the frameworks for universal standards that make websites accessible to folks with disabilities. WCAG rules ensure websites are scannable by digital readers that mimic human speech for the hard-of-hearing, or that guidelines are met regarding typeface size, color contrast, and much more.
CAN SPAM Email Marketing Rules
Email marketers in the U.S. be familiar with the CAN SPAM Act of 2003 that deploys standards for how marketers communicate with prospects. Specifically, the act differentiates between online communication involving customer service and marketing pitches.
Chiefly, CAN SPAM bars abusive email tactics, and backs that up with hefty fines for offenders. These include: misleading headlines and subject lines; not identifying content as advertising; and not revealing an enterprise’s location. It also requires that email marketers respect users’ privacy rights, and provide them the ability to stop, known as “opt-out’’ of, future marketing emails.
Rules for Testimonials, Influencer Marketing & Contests
Online reviews and influencer marketing are crucial to attracting and converting visitors into satisfied customers. But untruthful testimonials and endorsements, or misleading content that prevents customers from making sound purchase decisions, have the opposite effect.
As the enforcer of federal consumer-protection laws, the Federal Trade Commission oversees web-content compliance to protect consumers from bogus and misleading online claims. It also monitors whether persons paid or plied with free or discounted products disclose those “material connections’’ in their endorsements.
Online sweepstakes and contests are governed by a patchwork of state and federal laws, most of which vary only slightly from each other. However, the one to which they all concur is that no contest can require a purchase to participate. Doing so would constitute an illegal lottery.
Other web-compliance guidelines, while they may not always be legally mandated, fall into the realm of best practices you should consider for your protection and those of your users:
Website terms, conditions of use – Clarifying for users in general terms what actions and behavior are – or are not permitted – on a website is another way to engender trust and thwart abuses.
All these are in place to protect consumers, a goal that marketers and legal counsel can all agree is important. If you’d like to speak with us about any of web compliance tactics, please contact us.