Apple is the third-best online retailer in the UK, new research claims.

Amazon UK took first place in an evaluation of 28 UK online retailers, and Dell came second. Also in the top ten were Next (number four); Comet (number five) and Tesco (number six).

Apple was just one point behind Dell, and seven points behind Amazon UK.

The research evaluated the entire online shopping loop - from first visit to the return of unwanted items. It was conducted by independent mystery shopping and market research company Marketing Assistance for client Blast Radius. Researchers purchased a single item from each chosen retailer, and then attempted to return the product.

However, all online retailers came in for criticism in the report, in Apple's case its returns policy emerged as a sticking point.

While it performed very well across the survey, Apple's failure to mention a returns policy in the documentation supplied with a product once shipped, marked it down. The researchers note that while customers could find information about its returns policy if they looked, this was subject to a £30 charge.

The company performed much better when it came to ensuring a consistent brand for its products and service, the researchers note.

Lee Feldman, Blast Radius' chief creative officer, said: "The study results show that investment by online retailers tends to focus on what they care about most, securing the sale. This attention is at odds with what the customers focus on, what happens after they have made a purchase. This ‘service disconnect’ is critical and reveals a short sighted view of the customer based on immediate revenue collection where real value is gained from long-term relationships."

The Apple shopping report is available (in PDF form).