Unregulated collective investments schemes have been banned from sale to ordinary investors by the City watchdog.
The schemes promote alternative investments such as traded life policies, fine wines, crops and timber which can offer tempting returns but at great risk to your cash.
The biggest risk, however, is that because they are unregulated, investors have no recourse to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme should things go wrong.
The rules mean that certain riskier and complex fund structures will only be allowed to be promoted to sophisticated investors and high net worth individuals.
The ban was actually proposed last August when the regulator warned that some 85,000 ordinary people that had holdings in UCIS may have been mis-sold them. The ban was finally put into effect yesterday by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Christopher Woolard, director of policy risk & research, said: "Consumers have lost substantial amounts of money investing in UCIS and similar products in recent years so the need to introduce new rules to prevent this from continuing was essential."
However, the regulator has allowed a number of high-risk investments to escape the ban, including exchange traded products, real estate investment trusts and venture capital trusts.
Enterprise investment schemes and seed enterprise investment schemes, unless structured as UCIS, are also outside the scope of the rules.
The move was welcomed by companies which sell alternative investments. David Kaye, chief of VCT-provider Puma Investments, said: "VCT offers are well-understood and well-regulated. They should not be classified as unregulated collective investments schemes."
Ian Sayers, director general of the Association of Investment Companies said: "This is important for the investment company sector and allows ordinary retail investors to continue to access the benefits of VCTs and offshore investment companies."
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