UK commercial and government websites have been slammed for offering "disappointing" customer service.

Only 12 of 202 sites studied in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the UK were rated as "very good", in a study carried out during November and December by the German consulting firm Mummert + Partner AG and the technical college Fachhochschule Münster.

The company said that most other sites besides the best 12 offered "markedly worse" customer service. A third of sites rated did not even meet 40 percent of the required criteria.

Banks and credit institutes scored among the best, accounting for five of the entrants on the study's Top Ten list.

The researchers praised the National Westminster Bank, amongst others, for web offerings such as personalised investment advice, stock transactions via WAP (wireless application protocol) on mobile phones, and real-time stock exchange data.

Top honours though went to German utility company Neckarwerke Stuttgart AG, which the study said offers all of the same customer service options, including installation orders, energy use analysis, and billing information, online as offline.

Rated by nationality, German sites came in first, followed by Austrian, Swiss, and UK sites.