The robot lawyer that speaks up to advocate on your behalf

Why waste time phoning customer support if a bot can do it more successfully?  (Getty Images/Tetra images RF)
Why waste time phoning customer support if a bot can do it more successfully? (Getty Images/Tetra images RF)

If you’re sick of phoning your bank or internet provider, a bot could soon do the mundane task for you.

A company called Do Not Pay has created an artificial intelligence that mimics your voice to make calls to customer-support lines on your behalf.

In a video shared on Twitter, Do Not Pay founder Joshua Browder uses the tool to get a refund for transfer fees from US bank Wells Fargo.

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The company plans to add the bot to its list of automated services, including the option to fight parking tickets and cancel subscriptions, according to tech news site Motherboard.

Do Not Pay, which describes its overarching service as a “robotlawyer”, currently costs £36 per two months as part of an ongoing subscription. It claims to have settled more than one million cases, including previously helping overturn 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York.

In the demo, the bot asks to speak to a representative and then responds to the agent’s questions with a series of simple replies. The conversation is stilted, with the bot taking long pauses before answering, indicating that the software still needs some polish.

Nevertheless, its creators claim it can help with a variety of “legal negotiations”, like phoning an airline to get a refund on a cancelled flight.

“This is the perfect use case for AI,” Browder said in a tweet. “Nobody has time to argue on the phone about $12!”

While the idea of designating Sisyphean admin work to an AI may sound appealing, it also raises questions of privacy and security. In most cases, phoning up customer support will generally require you to answer a series of identifying questions. However, not everyone will feel comfortable handing over such sensitive info, like passwords and financial details, to a bot.

In addition, banks now use voice-identification systems to confirm your identity, which analyses more than 100 aspects of your speech, from your accent and pronunciation to the size and shape of your mouth. It’s difficult to see how this new bot could fool those systems into thinking it was a real person, especially due to its unnatural way of speaking.

According to Browder, Wells Fargo bank lets you override its voice biometrics system by pressing a button on your phone keypad and entering your cash machine pin. Again, that’s info that you’d presumably have to enter yourself or hand over to the bot.

Ultimately, those limitations could restrict the bot to completing low-level or partial tasks that don’t require too much security.

Do Not Pay created the AI tool using a mix of existing and proprietary tech, including Resemble.ai, a site that lets you create an AI voice; GPT-J, an open-source casual language model; and Do Not Pay’s own AI models for the script.