Wireless Carriers Admit Their Service Plans Still Far Too Confusing For Most Consumers To Actually Understand
from the I-have-three-degrees-and-can't-understand-my-Verizon-bill dept
I’ve written about the telecom industry for going on fifteen years now, and even I have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to decipher many of the industry’s new pricing offerings and promotions when they first hit the newswires. Of course, this confusion is often by design; the more complicated moving parts in play when choosing a plan and device (should I enroll in early phone upgrade programs? Will I have enough pooled data? Do I really need device insurance?), the more difficult it is for the average consumer to understand what it really is they’re buying and make direct comparisons.
While T-Mobile’s recent competitive assault on Sprint, AT&T and Verizon has helped encourage some positive changes in the sector (the shift away from device subsidies and contracts in particular), many of the competitive responses and promotions have been largely cosmetic in nature with even the carriers admitting they’re still not all that interested in really competing on price. As a result, despite progress, a lot of the industry’s problems remain, including intentionally-confusing bills that require several advanced degrees to truly fully understand. Even T-Mobile, which is cultivating a reputation as a consumer hero, acknowledges that consumers will never be able to understand what it is they’re buying:
“Industry insiders acknowledge that, short of creating a spreadsheet to sort out the pitches, expecting consumers to navigate all of these offers is unrealistic. “We?re in a state of the industry where the carriers have sown a massive amount of confusion,” Mike Sievert, the chief marketing officer for T-Mobile USA, said in a telephone interview. “Can you even decipher what?s going on with the carriers anymore?”
Of course T-Mobile laughs this off as a sort of “gosh, that’s just how it is” affair, when again, this confusion is by design. AT&T, the company that has so far been hit the hardest by T-Mobile’s often hilarious attacks on industry compatriots, takes the opportunity to imply that this confusion is the fault of increased T-Mobile competition, not the carriers themselves:
“I think we?re propagating some confusion in the marketplace ? us as an industry,” Glenn Lurie, the new chief executive of AT&T Mobility, said in a recent interview. “There?s been so much noise that customers are getting confused.” Criticizing his competitors? limited-time discounts, Mr. Lurie of AT&T said his company?s reputation was built around being respectful and transparent to customers. “Deal of the day is not necessarily how you get there.”
Of course that’s the same AT&T that has been at the vanguard of making wireless plans headache-inducing for years. It’s also the same AT&T that just settled an investigation by the government into not only turning a blind eye to cramming and spamming, but for intentionally making bills more confusing so such scams would be harder to detect. While the press loves to make a lot out of the wireless industry’s current price war, there’s still a long, long way to go in terms of generating enough competitive pressure to force carriers to offer truly lower prices and a product people can understand. Of course, when the majority of consumers don’t even know what a gigabyte is, that may be easier said than done.