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IFAs warn over carbon credit 'boiler room'

Advisers have sounded alarm over the sales practices of a Poland-based carbon brokerage company, which has been accused of pressuring vulnerable clients into making investments.

By Cara Waters | Published Jun 06, 2011 | comments

IFAs have raised concerns over a carbon credits brokerage based in Poland, which has been accused of pressuring vulnerable clients into making large investments and acting as a 'boiler room' by using aggressive cold calling practices.

Jon Hill, a financial advisers with Somerset based solicitors Milford and Domor, said that an elderly client was called by CarbonTrace Solutions and that she agreed to purchase €4,000 worth of carbon credits.

Mr Hill says that after the telephone call his client changed her mind and sought to cancel the investment, at which point she was threatened with litigation by the firm.

He said that he was concerned as his client is an elderly female and he felt she was being put under pressure by CarbonTrace. He added that he suspected the company was a boiler room and advised his client to pass any further enquiries from CarbonTrace on to him.

Mr Hill said: "We have come across these type of schemes quite often in the past and they seem to have an amazing ability to prey on vulnerable people. It is one of those things where it just sounds too good to be true."

Chris Shaw, chief operating officer at chartered financial planners John Lamb, conducted some research into CarbonTrace after being alerted to the company's cold calls.

He said: "There is a website but there is no address to contact them on - which is always suspicious - not to mention any regulator listed. I started looking at the small print and if there is not any then that is in itself a concern."

Mr Shaw said he suspected CarbonTrace was a boiler room.

He said: "No UK regulated entities should be recommending it and members of the public should not be investing in it."

CarbonTrace has been highlighted by several other advisers, with many saying that it was being promoted by Abberley Capital, a company based in Hong Kong that describes itself as an 'advisory and research' firm.

The FSA has placed Abberley Capital is on its list of unauthorised overseas firms operating in the UK. The regulator described the list of unauthorised firms as "often involved in 'boiler room' activities" and firms which "pose a high degree of risk to consumers."

CarbonTrace's website does not list an address and the telephone number listed rings out. Following repeated attempts to contact the firm an unnamed spokesperson for CarbonTrace responded with a written statement.

The spokesperson denied CarbonTrace was a boiler room or that it had a relationship with Abberley Capital, saying there there is "no arrangement in place for it to promote our products".

The email said: "We do not use high pressure sales techniques. Customers are free to subscribe or not. We take very seriously the allegation that a customer was pressured and or threatened with litigation. No-one selling our products should act in this way.

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