Why Are Major Carriers’ Websites So Bad?

In my experience, major wireless carriers have terrible websites. It’s hard to figure out all of the plans major carriers offer and the prices of those plans. Finding details about plans’ policies and limitations is often tricky. In contrast, a lot of small, MVNO carriers have easy-to-use websites.

Among the major carriers, I’ve spent the most time using Verizon’s website. While doing things that Verizon suggested I should be able to do online, I’d regularly be served error messages indicating that I should call Verizon’s telephone support.

A recent Reddit thread titled Why is the official Verizon website so bad? touched on the same topic. Commenters indicated that bad websites are par for the course with the major carriers. Here’s the top-voted comment in the thread:1

AT&Ts website and app are far worse. I promise you.

So why are major carriers’ websites so bad? I think part of the explanation is that mobile phone service in the U.S. is a confusopoly. Incompetence doesn’t explain why it’s difficult to find clear descriptions of carriers’ policies and limitations. Carriers make some information hard to find because keeping that information in hard-to-reach areas is in their interests. Carriers often default to showing website visitors a subset of their plans. Visitors often need to search to find prepaid and budget plans. Carriers know that price-sensitive consumers will be more likely to put effort into searching while price-insensitive consumers may spend more than they need to for premium service.

I don’t think my argument that mobile phone service is a confusopoly is sufficient to explain all of the ways in which major carriers websites are bad. It’s hard to see how some of the issues I’ve experienced could serve carriers’ interests. For example, Verizon’s website went down last week. I don’t think the outage was good for Verizon.

Maybe all of the complexity large carriers deal with contributes to their websites being so bad. Subscribers with major carriers are on all sorts of different plans with different policies, features, etc. On the other hand, lots of companies deal with complexity and still have good websites. Financial institutions offer complicated services; their websites seem to work a lot better than major carriers’ websites.

I’m not sure what to think. If other explanations make a lot of sense to you, let me know in the comments.


  1. The comment was made by Reddit user VLam802.

4 thoughts to “Why Are Major Carriers’ Websites So Bad?”

    1. Same. I’m on Straight Talk’s sight now and how bad it is spured me on to ask Google. Totally as clunky as can be. I can’t imagine why. It’s too much for me and after about 5 minutes of redirects because the sight can’t keep up with my slow clicking, I gotta shut it down due to frustration. No thanks, I guess I’ll just keep this phone…… bye.

  1. I’ve tried on different occasions to buy a new phone over the past year and have gotten error messages so quit and tried at other times, just to get more errors. I tried last night and after making it through some issues got to the pay page and it errored out. I think because I need to change my billing zip to match my cards zip, though the error message literally said something went wrong with the site. But the change billing address page is broken with errors so I can’t fix that issue. I wanted to double check the order didn’t actually go through since my cart emptied but the order statues page is broken too, blank with no header or anything.

    That’s loosing them sales not helping them. I’m considering moving to AT&T but with comments saying they are just as bad, I don’t know. Hard to think it gets worse than a site that wont even let you buy a phone or change your address. I would go to the store instead but can’t cue to lockdown.

    Also, they wont let me keep my number without hoops(prepaid). When I click keep my number it says I can’t and need a new one because it’s already with Verizon. Their solution is buy new line and new number then switch old number to new line but if I came from or go to a new company I could just keep my number. I guess that falls under your idea that they want to make life hard for prepaid customers.

    But the website being broken all the time preventing sales is just incompetence.

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