Tue, 02/18/2020 - 14:40
As robocalls have become an increasingly prominent issue, software developers have produced a bevy of anti-robocall apps. Most of these are variations on a call-blocking theme but one new app takes things much further. DoNotPay’s “robot lawyer” app has a new feature, called Robo Revenge, that essentially baits robocallers into Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) lawsuits.
Robo Revenge automatically adds the user to the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, generates a virtual burner credit card, uses that card to provide information to telemarketers, uses any transactions to get the telemarketer’s contact information, and assists the user in filing a TCPA lawsuit.
DoNotPay bills itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer” and provides a suite of consumer protection services, including a chatbot lawyer that automatically disputes parking tickets as well as automated programs that cancel free trials and cash in various sorts of reimbursements. Their website advertises the app with the slogan: “Fight corporations, beat bureaucracy and sue anyone at the press of a button.”
As with many of the purported solutions for the increasing volume of robocalls, Robo Revenge conflates the very real problem of illegal robocall spammers—many of whom are located overseas and are effectively out of the jurisdiction of US laws—and legitimate telemarketers. DoNotPay CEO Joshua Browder essentially admits as much when discussing his app with Motherboard:
“There are two types of scammers. There are the scammers based abroad who are trying to get your bank details—those people you can’t sue because you don’t even know where they are. But the type we can stop is the businesses like a U.S. based travel company trying to sell you a cruise and asking for your credit card number. We can take them out with U.S. based laws. If they’re calling someone and every time they’re calling someone, there’s a risk of a penalty, maybe they’ll think twice.”
It remains to be seen whether this app will actually have a measurable effect on TCPA litigation. The Robo Revenge feature of DoNotPay was launched last week. Presumably it may take some time until any resulting TCPA complaints reach the courts. But the app’s very existence underlies the importance of telemarketers maintaining best practices for any robocalling campaigns that they conduct.