The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has begun the investigation into HowToCorp.com, the company set up by Mr Shapps and his wife Belinda in 2005. In 2008 Mr Shapps transferred his share of the business to his wife.
HowToCorp is being investigated over the allegation that the company, which sold business “toolkits”, misled the public by presenting Michael Green as a genuine businessman with a personal fortune of £17m. The site claimed Mr Green was happy to reveal the secrets of his success via publications which were on sale on the site.
Last month an image from a 2004 conference in Las Vegas showed Mr Shapps wearing the name tag “Michael Green”. It was already known that Mr Shapps had set the company up under the name Michael Green. He said the alter ego was from when he was writing as a “business author”, as many authors do. Another “businessman” referred to on the site is Sebastian Fox, and the ASA is also investigated this person’s existence.
A statement from ASA 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 spokesman for the Conservative Party told the Independent newspaper: “Mr Shapps hasn’t been involved with this company for four and a half years. These websites are no longer online and any blogger can make a complaint about any website which then has to be investigated. This is in the hands of the ASA.”