Bot gives Equifax victims path to legal action
But success in small claims court involves several more steps
A 20-year-old Stanford student has built a free online bot that helps anyone affected by the Equifax breach sue the company in small claims court.
For customers angry at the massive breach of financial data, the free service holds hope — and likely disappointment. If used enough, it could cause severe financial pain for Equifax. But winning in small claims court can be an arduous process.
The website created by Joshua Browder is called Do Not Pay. He originally started it in his hometown of London after he got his driver’s license because he was “terrible at parallel parking, so I got a large number of parking tickets.”
He automated the system for filling in the forms to contest a parking ticket so that his bot would print them out after the user answered a series of questions.
At Stanford, he ported the site to work in the United States. When he realized his information was part of the Equifax breach that affected as many as 143 million people in the U.S., he looked around to see what his legal options were here.
He talked to some lawyers, and then this week added a new option to the site — suing Equifax in small claims court. While at least 23 class-action suits have been filed against Equifax already, Browder says “class-action suits take too much time, and too little goes to the victim. That’s why I like small claims court.”
Now when users visit donotpay-search-master.herokuapp.com, they see a clickable box that says “Automatically sue Equifax for $15,000.”
That leads to a series of boxes that adds the user’s name and address. Browder’s feeling about Equifax are clear from the last question, “What is your zip code? I am looking forward to helping you fight corporate incompetence,” the bot asks.
Filling that in results in a printable PDF of the papers necessary to file suit in small claims court against Equifax in the user’s state — all filled out with information about the Equifax breach.
However, that doesn’t mean the process is finished.
“The filer would still need to serve the paperwork and appear at the trial. That’s when things get a bit more difficult,” said Cara O’Neill, a small claims expert and editor with Nolo Press.
First, as the papers make clear, the individual must review, sign and then file the documents at the court address listed. In some states they might have to pay a fee to file. Once that’s done, a court-stamped copy of the form must be sent to Equifax’s registered agent in the individual’s home state.
“To find that, you have to go to your state’s Department of Corporation and look up the company name, which can take some searching,” said Steve Reger, vice president of data breach and fraud prevention for ConsumerDirect, a consumer credit management company based in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Joshua Browder, a Stanford University student, built a bot that allows people to file a small claims court case.