DoNotPay vs the world: is there nothing chatbots can’t do?!

One of the highest-profile LawTech winners has hit the news again. DoNotPay, the messenger-based chatbot, started out by helping individuals to appeal parking tickets – user could talk to it and based on their input they’d receive advice and template letters to challenge their penalty. Before too long it had grown, developing the ability to claim compensation for delayed flights, apply for emergency housing or even help refugees with applications for asylum.

Joshua Browder, founder of DoNotPay and a junior at Stanford University, reckons that his bot has helped to successfully appeal 375,000 parking tickets in the two years since launch. He aims to make the process easier for both individuals, and for government departments receiving the claims.

DoNotPay has now expanded into all 50 states in the US, taking on legal issues at a state level, with input from an army of volunteers. The expanded offering claims to cover 1,000 categories of claim, helping to bring free legal advice to people who might otherwise struggle to access it.

DoNotPay shares a line on our startup map with LawBot, a chatbot available via Facebook messenger to users in seven countries. It calculates a user’s chance of success in a legal claim with 71% accuracy, and then refers the user on to a network of law firms best suited to deal with the claim.

Law-related bots have tapped into the willingness of individuals to explore their problems via a messaging interface, but without the need to come armed with prior knowledge and legal jargon. Bots are becoming increasingly relevant for millennials and digital natives, who don’t want to spend an expensive hour on the phone resolving service queries or challenging charges and fines, but are happy to do so in a chat window while they work.

Although applications like DoNotPay are pioneering for the legal world, they are part of a trend in wider consumer sectors that’s seen household names jump on the AI bandwagon and delegate key functions to bots. Uber now lets you order a car right from the Facebook messenger window; Pizza Hut and Dominos have done the same with pizzas, letting you conjure up a Hawaiian through a quick chat on Facebook. Tacobell have launched Tacobot in the US, which lets you order food by chatting with a bot in their Slack channel.

Away from hot food, there are chatbots entering the market that aim to empower individuals. ClearScore’s bot helps people with their credit scores, with three different coaching options: build, for younger people looking to establish a credit history;  repair, for those with a patchy record they need to improve; and shape up, for individuals with a decent score who want to brush up their finances more generally.

Big hitters like RBS and Sage have chatbots in the early stages too: Luvo from RBS helps with lost cards and forgotten PINs, while Pegg from Sage helps you keep track of personal finances. With the right application, and a focus on a defined but achievable goal, bots can help users across the world. However, their limits are still being tested – Microsoft’s Tay Tweets hit the news for all the wrong reasons when it set out to use social media to engage with and learn about young people, but ended up down some offensive racist and sexist blind alleys. Back to the drawing board for Microsoft – onwards and upwards for DoNotPay!