June 24, 2020

Wanna challenge a parking ticket or get help on bills? This robo-lawyer can help

DoNotPay is the hidden hero of the pandemic.

Anyone who bought a concert ticket this spring knows what a total mess refunds are right now. 

But if you’re trapped in automated customer-service purgatory, good news: Now you can fight cyborg with cyborg.

DoNotPay is a chatbot lawyer designed to contest small-time charges like parking violations — but during the pandemic, it has found a new niche getting your cash refunds out of corporate limbo and into your bank account. 

According to Fortune, the company’s user base has jumped from under 20k to 50k+ since the pandemic. And it just sewed up a $12m round of funding. 

Perry Mason gets bionic

Here’s DoNotPay’s pitch: For $3 a month, the app will beat predatory refund policies. 

Take the classic refund head fake: Back in March, plenty of airlines tried to make up for canceled flights with vouchers instead of actual cash. 

But the DoNotPay bot knew that was against the law. It pointed out a rule from the Department of Transportation requiring airlines to shell out full refunds.

The DoNotPay bot is learning new tricks

Rent extensions, for one: The bot can now haggle with your landlord to get you some extra wiggle room on your rent. 

And the service is setting its sights on the blight of small crimes writ large. Next up for DoNotPay: Develop a tool that can get small infractions — say, an arrest for protesting — expunged from your records.

We asked our Hustle Insiders: What hurdles might get in the way of a tool like this?

From Alex Moskov, Editor at CoinCentral, Head of Content at JUICE:

“The most significant hurdles will be the local legislature and private lobbying groups in the same way Uber had to fight cities lobbied by taxi companies, Eaze had to fight their local jurisdictions, etc. I interviewed a venture capitalist named Bradley Tusk who provides these sorts of startups political, regulatory, and media guidance; I can imagine something like this would be in his court.”

Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity. Want more expert takes like this one? We’re trying something new — tell us what you think here.

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