Store First promised investors rental returns and buy-back schemeComplaints have mounted from pod owners saying pledges haven't been keptGreg Clark ha
- Store First promised investors rental returns and buy-back scheme
- Complaints have mounted from pod owners saying pledges haven’t been kept
- Greg Clark has launched a High Court action to wind the firm up
Business Secretary Greg Clark has launched a High Court action to wind up Store First Limited, the company behind the country’s biggest storage pod investment scheme.
Store First, based in Lancashire, operates self-storage warehouses and has used outside sales firms to market units for up to £30,000 apiece to savers oftewn as a pensions investment.
The scheme was plugged online by TV motoring star and ex Top Gear host Quentin Willson. Mr Willson remains an investor but said that he took legal action a year ago when he first became aware of ‘consumer issues’ with Store First.
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Quentin Willson: The ex-Top Gear star was in a number of adverts for Store First
Investors say they were promised guaranteed rental returns and a buy-back scheme, but complaints have mounted from pod owners, who say that marketing pledges have not been kept.
The action against the firm was revealed by Mail on Sunday and This is Money ace investigator Tony Hetherington this week.
The scheme promised a ‘guaranteed’ eight per cent return in the first two years, rising to 10 per cent in years three and four.
In 2013, the Financial Mail on Sunday and This is Money warned that alarm bells were ringing.
A promotional video fronted by motoring writer and ex-Top Gear star Quentin Willson described Lancashire-based Store First as a ‘remarkable investment’, with 20 centres and plans for 30 more.
In one of the adverts, still on YouTube, Mr Willson says a £15,000 investment could return £13,000 in six years – a whopping profit of 85 per cent, adding: ‘call me old fashioned, but who needs gold?’
He says in the ad: ‘But the idea is to buy one, then another, and one after that. And you’re getting all this rental income coming in and you’re building up this portfolio of store pods which you can eventually sell at a profit.
‘It’s clear, it’s simple, there are no hidden fees, no hidden charges. It is a transparent, hassle-free investment.’
We revealed that the actual number open for business was far smaller and the company’s solicitor admitted that the video’s figure included sites still on the drawing board.
We also warned that Store First boss Toby Whittaker was behind an earlier investment firm, Dylan Harvey Residential, which collapsed leaving investors nursing losses of more than £6million.
A whole string of salesmen for Store First were already in the files of Mail on Sunday over their involvement in land, wine and carbon credit investment scams.
Whittaker condemned The Mail on Sunday’s warnings, claiming: ‘The investigation is shoddy and when analysed shows nothing.’
Alarm bells relied on ‘innuendo and irrelevant comment’, he added.
The case against his company will be heard in the High Court in Manchester on August 1.
The Serious Fraud Office is investigating a number of pension schemes that invested in storage pods.
It has not named any individual storage firms, but investigators believe there are more than a thousand victims and sums involved total more than £120million.
This is Money has contacted Store First for comment but had no reply.
The Store First investments are unregulated. Investments regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority mean those with complaints can take it to the Financial Ombudsman or Financial Services Compensation Scheme
Investors are asked to contact the SFO through its website at sfo.gov.uk.