They and the company in charge of the buy.at scheme have both blasted local MP Andrew Miller for “scurrilously” questioning its legitimacy in Parliament.
During a debate on the funding and expenditure of political parties with Justice Minister Jack Straw, the Labour MP for Ellesmere & Neston said: “The Conservatives in Ellesmere Port have adopted a new scam on their website. They are acting a bit like a discount warehouse.
“A whole raft of public, well-known companies advertise on the local Conservative party website. Not one of their shareholders has authorised such a donation.
“Will my Right Honourable Friend ensure that legislation stops that kind of scam?”
Mr Straw, who is also Lord Chancellor, told Mr Miller he should refer his complaint to the Electoral Commission.
The matter has sparked a furious reaction from the Conservative Association chairman Andrew Merrill, who called Mr Miller’s comments “scurrilous and totally inaccurate”.
He added: “I can assure the Pioneer and borough residents that no scam is operating from our website, www.ellesmereportandnestonconservatives.com
“If it became apparent that an unacceptable or improper operation was happening via our website, then it would be removed with immediate effect and the appropriate authorities informed.”
The website links to a legitimate fundraising scheme run by buy.at, recently bought by Time Warner AOL.
It allows site visitors to access the websites of high street stores. While the association doesn’t receive anything from the retailers themselves, they do receive a commission from buy.at for all purchases made through the link.
Mr Merrill said he “can’t understand” Mr Miller’s complaint, adding: “With his constituents suffering from soaring living costs and with further increases due to come, I wonder whether he is in touch with reality if this is all he can raise in Parliament.”
Paul Newton, finance manager of Perfiliate Technologies Ltd based in Newcastle, which runs the buy.at scheme, said: “Everyone’s a winner on our site. It’s a good business model. But if someone was suffering then we wouldn’t do it.
“The word scam is very unfortunate. A lot of people are doing a lot of good work behind the scenes. But all it takes is for one person to badmouth us.
“We are doing nothing wrong. We are squeaky clean and have nothing to hide. Labour, the Lib Dems and Green Party all do what Ellesmere Port Tories are doing.
Andrew Miller says he stands by his comments and wants to see the matter cleared by the Electoral Commission.