The survey, by London-based marketing agency Rainer Ltd on FTSE 100 companies, found that many of the UK's top firms provide insufficient or confusing information on their sites. 16 companies could not be contacted by email and a quarter of the 100 are said to have responded inadequately via email to basic inquiries, including questions on investment.
"Many companies have spent al lot of time getting a web presence, but have failed to invest in integrating their front and back office," says a Rainer representative. "It's important from a private investors perspective. Many companies many promises about customer and share holder services in their annual reports and it just doesn't ring true."
Lanse Close, senior analyst at Mintel says, "There should undoubtedly be facilities whereby any query whatsoever is responded to. That's just basic business sense. It is probably reflective of the fact that individual investors are not as important as institutional ones in this country. But we are definitely moving towards that American model, where individuals are more important and businesses should be thinking of that."
BAA, GUU, NatWest and Tesco are among the 26 companies that failed to respond to email inquiries. BASS, ICI, Orange and Vodafone were among the companies that offered no contact details on their sites.
One Tesco spokesperson, obviously upset at the report's findings questions its accuracy: "We have a dedicated staff that responds to email inquiries and treats them with the same priority as phone calls. From what I can gather the research was based on one email message that must have got lost somewhere in our infrastructure. Our site was recently voted one of the best business sites in the world by the London school of economics, and I think that says a lot more than this report."