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The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm which examines how firms treat their punters online, has studied how the IT industry interacts with consumers.

The good news is that most websites examined in the IT sector were easy to navigate and did a "fair job" of explaining their privacy policies "fully and clearly".

The bad news is that three in ten companies in the sector shared private information with "unaffiliated third parties" without permission, said the report.

A third of companies failed to respond to any customer enquiries, while a quarter only managed answer half of the questions put to them.

Of those outfits using automatic replies saying that queries would be dealt with, almost half failed to follow up their promise.

"High-tech firms need to wake up to the fact that sharing information without permission is bad for business," said Roger Fairchild, president of The Customer Respect Group.

"Moreover, since, on average, users abandon 20 per cent of websites they visit due to an unsatisfactory experience, you have to wonder why more than half of high-tech firms aren't responding to questions directly posed to them.

"Clearly, being technologically savvy doesn't correlate directly to providing a high-quality website experience," he said.

Top dogs in The Customer Respect Group's IT industry study were Hewlett-Packard and research outfit Science Applications International, which both scored 9.5 out of 10, while wireless outfit Brightpoint, served up a dog's breakfast with its score of 2.6.

Last month, the Customer Respect Group carried out research on the UK's top 100 companies concluding that UK firms just don't have the same respect among consumers as their US counterparts.

However, the study was savaged attacked by UK electrical retailer Dixons, which suffered badly in the study, claiming the research was deeply flawed. ®

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