Tory chairman under investigation by advertising watchdog

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A company set up by Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps is being investigated by the advertising watchdog over claims that its website misled users.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was studying a complaint about the HowToCorp website, which used to be run by Mr Shapps, featuring get-rich-quick advice from supposedly successful businessmen Sebastian Fox and Michael Green.

Green – a name that has been used by Mr Shapps as a business alias – is presented as having built up a $28m fortune. The website, which is no longer active, invited users to pay a fee to benefit from his advice.

The ASA has received a complaint suggesting neither Green nor Fox are real people and questioning whether testimonials on the site were genuine.

A spokesman said: “We have received a complaint about a website which is headed ‘Sebastian Fox’s How To Corp – The Home of Great Toolkits on the Net’, and which includes links to articles on each advertised toolkit which it says are written by Michael Green. The website also includes links to testimonials.

“The complainant has challenged whether the website is misleading, because it implies Sebastian Fox and Michael Green are successful businessmen whereas they believe neither are real people, and whether the testimonials are genuine.

“We have launched an investigation to establish whether there is a problem under the Advertising Code.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said Mr Shapps had not been involved with the company for four-and-a-half years.

“These websites are no longer online and any blogger can 
make a spurious complaint about any website, which then has to be investigated. This is in the 
hands of the ASA,” the spokesman said.

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