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The Almighty Buck The Courts Businesses Software Technology

Chatbot Lets You Sue Equifax For Up To $25,000 Without a Lawyer (theverge.com) 111

Shannon Liao reports via The Verge: If you're one of the millions affected by the Equifax breach, a chatbot can now help you sue Equifax in small claims court, potentially letting you avoid hiring a lawyer for advice. Even if you want to be part of the class action lawsuit against Equifax, you can still sue Equifax for negligence in small claims court using the DoNotPay bot and demand maximum damages. Maximum damages range between $2,500 in states like Rhode Island and Kentucky to $25,000 in Tennessee. The bot, which launched in all 50 states in July, is mainly known for helping with parking tickets. But with this new update, its creator, Joshua Browder, who was one of the 143 million affected by the breach, is tackling a much bigger target, with larger aspirations to match. He says, "I hope that my product will replace lawyers, and, with enough success, bankrupt Equifax."

Not that the bot helps you do anything you can't already do yourself, which is filling out a bunch of forms -- you still have to serve them yourself. Unfortunately, the chatbot can't show up in court a few weeks later to argue your case for you either. To add to the headache, small claims court rules differ from state to state. For instance, in California, a person needs to demand payment from Equifax or explain why they haven't demanded payment before filing the form.

Chatbot Lets You Sue Equifax For Up To $25,000 Without a Lawyer

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  • Don't do it, you might be able to sue them for the price of a house if their lack of care costs you your mortgage payments.
    • $2500 is certainly better than anything you'd see a class action. A class action will hurt Equifax and make the lawyers filthy rich but the $5 check the actual victims may or may not ever see one day isn't even going to compensate for the time it takes them to complain about it on Slashdot.
      • $2500 is certainly better than anything you'd see a class action.

        and that's a lower limit. In some states it's up to $25,000.

        A class action will hurt Equifax and make the lawyers filthy rich but the $5 check the actual victims may or may not ever see one day isn't even going to compensate for the time it takes them to complain about it on Slashdot.

        Yep. I hate class-action lawsuits; the lawyers get rich, and the customers who were cheated get a few dollars.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Would you rather the company gets off free? You need to include that in your analysis. Without class action lawsuits, fraud pays extremely well. With class actions, it only pays ok.

        • The problem is that non-class action lawsuits are prone to the big business working the system to get out of liability. For example, the big company, with lawyers on retainer, can file endless legal tactics to run out the customers' time/money. If the customer gets through the junket, they can settle for an undisclosed token amount with settlement language forbidding the customer from talking about the company or settlement ever again.

          Yes, class action lawsuits don't result in big paydays for the customers

          • Maybe this legal tactic could be handled by communicating to defense attorneys that deal with this stuff? The next step is to update the chatbot accordingly?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If they had large numbers of people demanding even $100 they'd probably go bankrupt. This leak was just that bad. It's not even just the $100, they'd have to either just write the check or send somebody to contest it, which would likely cost more than $100, even if they did manage to win the case.

        Anyways, the whole point of class action suits isn't to get people their money back, it's to punish companies that do a little bit of harm to a large number of people. Otherwise, in most of those cases, it wouldn't

        • "If they had large numbers of people demanding even $100 they'd probably go bankrupt."

          And so they should.

          "Anyways, the whole point of class action suits isn't to get people their money back, it's to punish companies that do a little bit of harm to a large number of people."

          The purpose of class actions is to deter companies from engaging in behavior that harms people in the future. If the judgement is for even a penny less than the actual damages then the company made a net profit on the whole affair and all
      • I'm thinking that this chatbot is the kind of A.I. that Elan Musk and friends might be worried about? Consider the possibilities, if this solution were applied to the likes of, say, Wells Fargo?
    • Not really. Sue for specifics-- prevention costs and vigilance rather than as a result of a specific erroneous item.

      I will be doing it myself. The California limit is $10k. If you sue with a lawyer it will end up as a class and you are likely to get less out of it.

      • Can you give more specifics about your plan? How are you planning on itemizing your costs? What law allows you to sue for 'vigilance'?
    • Sorry, you would need a lawyer for that. The whole point of the chatbot and small claims is to avoid that necessity, and to get a better deal than any class action can bring you. Of course it would provoke a bankruptcy if a lot of people go for it, which would be unfortunate is it was granted. The best thing would be a revocation of the corporate charter and all assets seized and distributed, including personal assets of those in charge. And make them do community service also. We need our pound of flesh wh

  • Easy and Hard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @07:52AM (#55179821) Homepage Journal

    This shows how easy some legal steps are, but also how hard they are too. How do you get legal advice whether you should use this chatbot or sue for far more money some other way, perhaps after your data is actually used illicitly?

    Over here, we call most lawyers 'solicitors'. I'm sure some have a wild, edge-of-your-seat lives, but many do 'conveyancing', which is a paper pushing exercise to do with house buying and selling. It's a job that could, and should be completely automated into non-existence, and one that a 'chat bot' could easily achieve - were it not for the insistence of various parties to post documents to each other.

    My point is... a lot of legal processes are really quite simple, and only look complicated because those that execute those procedures continue to make them look more complex than they are. 'Chat bots' or other electronic solutions show just how simple those processes are, but as I say, can't really do so well at the 'advice' part of the legal profession.

    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      I'm sure some have a wild, edge-of-your-seat lives, but many do 'conveyancing', which is a paper pushing exercise to do with house buying and selling. It's a job that could, and should be completely automated into non-existence, and one that a 'chat bot' could easily achieve - were it not for the insistence of various parties to post documents to each other.

      I agree that a lot of buying and selling a house can be automated. Lawyers in the US are working on it, when we bought our house last year a lot of the initial document work was done through Docusign. The problem is, 75% of house transactions are totally by the book, probably 15% have things that go screwy, and 5% go totally off the rails for one reason or another. That last 25% is where lawyers come in handy. (source: all the real estate people I've talked to)

      The first house we bought was in the "screwy" c

      • Yeah when you're learning about buying a house and discover that title insurance is a thing that exists and why it exists you start feeling better about all the money you're spending on those experts.
        • Stupid question I am sure... but what does a lawyer do for you that isn't covered by inspection, escrow and title insurance? I hate to admit it, but I will throw a Realtor into the mix of protections as well.

          I have only bought one condo in my life; everything was docusign and there were two or three little issues (owner dying during transaction, escrow extension, and someone with same first.middle.last in the county that uphad unpaid child support) but nothing that my inexperienced realtor couldn't cover.

          • Okay... and I suppose you just signed all that paperwork without reading it? Trusting the mortgage company that produced your paperwork for you? Even if you did read it, do you honestly think you understood the full implications of all the terms? There is nobody involved in that process who represents your interests rather than "Completing the sale" and "closing" other than you. That goes double for the Realtor.

            There is a lot of crap that gets slipped into mortgage terms if you aren't paying attention and
            • I'd go further, just hire a real estate lawyer and skip the purchasers agent entirely.

              Make sure the seller's agent doesn't try and take the whole commission. Take that 3.5% (or thereabouts) off the price. It's all negotiable, squeeze the seller's agent for a lower % and pocket that too.

              Real estate agents do very little for you, if you have a lawyer they do NOTHING for you (but rape your wallet).

              • Maybe in BFE, you might be able to get away with that. In competitive real estate markets, they'll tell you to screw off and because there are 50 other offers who are less hassle to deal with.
                • You realize the agent is required to pass the offer to the seller? The agent isn't allowed to say 'screw off'.

                  A good real estate lawyer will write a _better_ offer than some idiot agent who took three tries to pass the agent test.

                  Bottom line is bottom line. The only thing else the seller even cares about are contingencies.

                  • You realize the agent is required to pass the offer to the seller? The agent isn't allowed to say 'screw off'.

                    Its not the agent that will tell you to screw off, its the seller. They get 49 clean offers, some all-cash, some with escalation clauses, most with inspections waivers. Then, at the bottom of the pile, is your convoluted, no-agent offer that comes in below asking price because you don't understand listing agent contracts. Who would even take a second look at that mess?

                    • Clean offers? From agents? No. Agents just reuse 'form offers', often they forget important things. It's not like they are an intelligent or skilled group.

                      Again. Lawyers are better at the job and charge hourly rather than a %. Cheaper and better.

                      The only things the seller cares about is bottom line and contingencies. They're not above squeezing agents either. They don't care, at all, how the commish gets divided. Sure the selling agent would like to get it all, but the seller doesn't care, they just wa

                    • Obviously, we operate in different tiers of the real estate market. Try buying a house in Seattle or the Bay Area and see if any of your schemes fly.
                  • So we are discussing levels of chatbot sophistication? If so, then the chatbot should have some method of communicating that there are several paths that one can take, or procedures that one can complete. That's realistic for chatbots.
              • I'd add one more item to that: Don't go by the real estate agent's recommended lawyer. We did when we bought our house. When we sat down for the closing, we were floored to hear that our lawyer would be representing both us AND the real estate company. Guess which interest he looked out for more? Us - a one time client - or the real estate company - who did repeat business with him and paid him a lot more? Yup. Many things that we needed were swept under the rug because a successful closing was in the real

              • Yup, they find listings of websites. You can use a search engine too, I promise. People are foolish and believe they help you negotiate and advise on bad purchases but I never understood why people would think they should trust someone who only makes money if you buy and who gets more the more you pay to do those things.

                Hell, in many ways if you've found a place you like and it's in a decent neighborhood you are shooting yourself in the foot trying to "get a deal." People don't understand how real estate va
            • Maybe you get your mortgages from Shady Joe's Instaloan Warehouse, but under those the Truth in Lending Act, closing disclosure forms have a standardized 5 page format. https://www.consumerfinance.go... [consumerfinance.gov]
              • Uh huh. I assume you've never actually gotten a mortgage. Don't read a word and it will still take you 20-30 minutes to sign and initial everything you are agreeing to. Oh you'll get that five pages in there but the stack is truly impressive. Refi is fun as well. You'd be amazed how loosely mortgage brokers use terms like "you don't have to pay" when what they really mean is you are totally being charged but we are rolling it into the principal.
                • Uh huh. I assume

                  Don't.

                  I know about "the stack". It includes documents to certify that you are who claim to be, that you can legally own property, that you understand insurance and tax requirements, etc. But, by law, "the stack" cannot include any charges or fees that are not included in the disclosure.

                  You'd be amazed how loosely mortgage brokers use terms like "you don't have to pay" when what they really mean is you are totally being charged but we are rolling it into the principal.

                  That's a totally different issue than having hidden fees in the signing paperwork, isn't it? They do like to roll things like inspection fees and title costs into the principle. But a lawyer won't help you

                  • "That's a totally different issue than having hidden fees in the signing paperwork, isn't it?"

                    No, it's exactly the same issue. If a plumber quotes you $500 to fix something with your plumbing you are figuring that against what you can afford and the potential costs and hassles of not having the thing repaired. Your disclosure is like the Plumber being required to give a listing of charges including parts and labor. But in this particular case if the line item for "labor" were broken down it would have line
                    • If I've communicated what I'm agreeing to that attorney and the paperwork differs from that it is the Attorney's job to catch that

                      Sounds like hiring an attorney to do basic arithmetic on your behalf. Usually, comparing two numbers and determining if they are equal is task I can manage on my own. There are some computing devices that can help with that,too.

            • The Mortgage is one set of documents, the sale of the home another set. Escrow handles both. And most folks get a mortgage to buy a house.
            • No mortgage in my purchase, although most of the issues are extra fees you pay either directly or financed. Financed items is what your handy-dandy TVM calculator is for; fees are easily spelled out and not hard to follow. Most importantly, there are fundamental consumer protections (at least in my state) that cover egregious terms.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The realtor has a massive conflict of interest. They just want the sale to happen. Anything that increases the chances and price of the sale, is good for them, even if if totally fucks you over.

            A lawyer can watch out for your interests. A realtor probably won't (assuming they even could) because they have all the wrong incentives.

            Basically, look at all the parties' incentives. They're not all bad, but none of them (with the exception of lawyer) will really be prioritizing your interests. (That said, an in

            • We must deal with different lawyers. Every lawyer I have ever worked with is primarily focused on their own self-interests. They provide "safe" advice to stay out of trouble, and they advise you towards overly complex issues that increase billable hours. The only lawyers you might be able to trust are family.

        • In California, the title companies do all the paperwork. No lawyer required.

    • There's two issues with your postulation.

      First, as JBMcB implied, automation fails at the margin. Worse still, neither it nor you will know it's failing until way too late.

      Second, it is (mostly) not true that things are made needlessly complex to keep lawyers making money. All those little twists and turns represent an effort to prevent repeating something that went wrong in the past.

      Now, the law is very slow to catch up with changes that might have eliminated the risk of those things going wrong again, and

      • Actually, a lot of legal stuff is made as easy as possible (at least here in the UK) - but the legal profession makes it sound harder than it is (not that they're making it deliberately difficult). There are plenty of cases where 'ordinary person doing the legals' is considered a problem though, but I suspect that's because so much of it is not automated.

        As for automation failing at the margin - I'd agree, but just because it's hard in some cases doesn't mean the majority can't be easy. Like a self-driving

        • Unfortunately, recognizing when you're in a non-normal situation is often a far more challenging problem than dealing with the normal situations.

          Consider - in a normal situation a "chatbot lawyer" just needs to collect the appropriate information from you, then fill out the paperwork correctly and tell you where to send it. That's really just a long-winded programing 101 exercise - input data and output it in nicely formatted fashion. Maybe with some basic calculations thrown in.

          Recognizing that it's out of

    • You don't need a solicitor to do conveyancing, you can do it yourself quite easily. You need them for two reasons when buying a house. The first is to act as escrow for mortgage funds. The bank will pay them before you own the house, on the condition that they can return the funds in full if the sale falls through. They won't transfer the funds to you, because you could just give the money away and file for bankruptcy instead of buying the house.

      The second reason is that houses come with a load of co

  • by volodymyrbiryuk ( 4780959 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @08:06AM (#55179867)
    "AI" is replacing lawyers. If this doesn't make our planet a better place I don't know what does.
  • I assume that you cannot sue in small claims court if Equifax says your data/credit report/personal information wasn't affected in the hack?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are you basing your affect on their magic 8 ball site to check if you are? There was an article yesterday that talks about people putting in the same info twice and getting 2 different answers.

    • I doubt merely being part of the disclosure would do the trick. You need to have damages in a civil suit. You haven't been harmed merely because they leaked your data, you aren't harmed unless someone uses it.
    • Re:hrn.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by parkinglot777 ( 2563877 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:05AM (#55180703)

      I assume that you cannot sue in small claims court if Equifax says your data/credit report/personal information wasn't affected in the hack?

      To sue someone on a small claim court, you need to 1) have damages that can be quantify to an amount of money (not imaginary amount) and 2) can prove that the damages are done by their action (not circumstantial evidence or very likely to lose). If you are sure you have both, then go for it; otherwise, don't waste your time.

      • by torkus ( 1133985 )

        I assume that you cannot sue in small claims court if Equifax says your data/credit report/personal information wasn't affected in the hack?

        To sue someone on a small claim court, you need to 1) have damages that can be quantify to an amount of money (not imaginary amount) and 2) can prove that the damages are done by their action (not circumstantial evidence or very likely to lose). If you are sure you have both, then go for it; otherwise, don't waste your time.

        This.

        I need go to thru the chatbot to see what it comes up with, but small claims court (at least in NY) requires tangible damages or loss.

        If my credit got FUBAR because my identity was stolen in this hack and i lost a deposit on a house, i'd have a tangible loss to sue them for. Having my PII (along with virtually every adult in the US) leaked by itself doesn't actually damage me in any direct way.

  • In the US of A anyone can sue anybody at any time for anything. Is the ridiculous chatbot going to win the litigation for me? Let's be serious.
  • "you still have to serve them yourself"

    In almost every single circumstance, someone unrelated to the suit must do the serving of the paperwork.

    Come on, if you're going to put in legal things, be fucking correct about them, Slashdot.

  • Per Equifax, my personal information may have been compromised.

    It's interesting, and probably with a though towards the legal system, that Equifax's message is "we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.

    Believe and May. Interesting choice of words.

    They won't say anything with certainty, so one is left with nothing better than wondering.

    In MO, small claims court can be up to $5,000. I think I might do this (my wife as well, depending on my experience).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:16AM (#55180783)

    A friend got a summary judgment in small claims court against Dell years ago, but actually getting them to pay turned out to be incredibly difficult. They simply ignored legal documents that were mailed to them, and while the would likely piss off a real judge, the small claims court judge just kind of shrugged about it. He tried to file a seizing of assets to cover the debt - got a sheriff to look into seizing the computers and whatnot at a kiosk in a mall. Legally apparently Dell doesn't own that stuff, some franchisee does. He would need some mechanism to seize assets at Dell headquarters, and that wasn't happening. AFAIK, he never collected, and the judgment stands (and continues to accrue interest).

    • If he can find some building or asset that Dell owns, he can place a lien on it, and get paid when the building is sold.

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