DoNotPay, a chatbot that provides help with legal issues, can now assist users with obtaining deadline extensions on bills due to financial strain caused by coronavirus. The app will automatically pinpoint where the user lives, check if there are any bills eligible for waivers or extensions, and then send requests to companies for an extension. At this time, the extra service only applies to U.S. states with coronavirus-related laws. The app will assist users in states without pandemic orders in its usual manner by using the available, local laws. A similar coronavirus-related service will be available later for residents in the UK.
Countless Americans are facing the possibility of losing their jobs to the pandemic, and many folks in the restaurant, bars, hospitality, and entertainment industries have already been laid off. Substitute teachers, contractors, and small business owners are also struggling with the sudden lack of income.
Some states, such as California and Washington, have issued emergency orders to pause evictions during the COVID-19 outbreak to stem the damage done to people who have been financially impacted by coronavirus. In other states without protections, residents may find further hardship from landlords raising rent and utility companies shutting off services — both problems the DoNotPay app hopes to help with.
Initially created to assist people with fighting against traffic tickets, the app has since expanded into services including filing small claims against companies. The app calls itself “the world’s first robot lawyer,” and specializes in automatically dealing with the filing and paperwork process for the user. This means if the initial letter requesting a fee waiver or bill extension is denied, the service will promptly send another firm letter that cites local and state laws to convince the recipient to approve the request.
The service can also provide some assistance with credit card bills, though the extent depends on the credit card company. According to The Verge, too many companies have reacted with different levels of compassion during the pandemic — from skipping one month’s payment to remaining ‘business as usual’ — which warrants a bit of negotiation to make a waiver request. It takes some time and mental energy to go through the process, which some people might not have. By relying on the app, the founder of DoNotPay hopes that what services it can provide will “allow Americans to focus less on finances and more on staying healthy and taking care of their loved ones” during this uncertain time.