The brakes have been put on a car park investment scheme after financial consumer watchdogs intervened.
Park First Limited, which offered airport parking investment was found to be running the scheme and giving regulated financial service advice without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority.
After discussions with the FCA, the company has agreed to stop offering the investment and to give existing clients at Gatwick and Glasgow airports the chance to get their money back.
The investors can choose between the return of their original stake or a lifetime leaseback scheme.
The lease scheme will pay rental income, providing a fixed yield of 2% a year.
Investors can claim money back
As this is not a collective investment scheme, no FCA regulation is required by the firm.
“We took the view that these were collective investment schemes, which can be a high-risk investment,” said the FCA. “Only authorised firms and individuals can operate or promote them.
“Given the circumstances of this case, we will not take further action at this time, but reserve the right to do so if it appears action is appropriate.
“We do not endorse the lifetime leaseback or any other Park First investment. We express no view about the merits or level of risk of such investments. We have not verified the factual accuracy of the promotional material for the lifetime leaseback scheme.
“Existing investors in Park First who are asked to make a decision about their Park First investment should seek such independent financial and/or legal advice to assist them in making their decision as they consider necessary.”
Insurance broker misled customers
Meanwhile, insurance broker Bluefin has been fined £4 million by the FCA for misleading customers who expected independent advice.
Instead, the company directed customers to products provided by Axa, which wholly-owned the company between March 2011 and December 2013.
Bluefin no controls to manage the conflict of the broker’s ownership. Bluefin’s independence was compromised by a culture promoting business strategies, including a policy focussing on increasing business placed with Axa rather than treating customers fairly.
Mark Steward, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight, said: ‘Insurance brokers must promote a culture in which they act in their customers’ best interests and provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision. This is central to the relationship between the industry and its customers.
‘It is also unacceptable that firms hold themselves out as independent when they are not.’