ChatGPT Can Negotiate Comcast Bills Down For You

"That's the future of bureaucracy: bots negotiating with each other," said Joshua Browder, CEO of DoNotPay, which is rolling out the service.
ChatGPT Can Negotiate Comcast Bills Down For You

ChatGPT may not be coming for your job or education system anytime soon, but there's growing efforts to use it for more realistic tasks—for example, dealing with customer service for subscriptions. Joshua Browder, founder and chief executive of "robot lawyer" app DoNotPay, revealed last week he had created a bot based on the large language model to help people save money on their internet bill.


DoNotPay styles itself as a consumer advocate, primarily using templates to help users secure refunds from corporations. There are sharp limits to the viability of that model however: only certain things can be handled with boilerplate templates, and even then if a company responded to a letter or email crafted by template there would be little DoNotPay could do to follow up. 

Recently, the company has been experimenting with AI; for example, to detect racist language in housing deeds. Now, it's unlocked a new level: DoNotPay has used ChatGPT to negotiate down a Comcast bill, Browder announced in a tweet on December 12. 

"So about six months ago, we started incorporating the OpenAI GPT3 API into our technology, which is basically the same thing ChatGPT uses. And about three months ago we really started to get it working properly," Browder told Motherboard. "Now we can really have conversations with companies and that's dramatically increased our success rate and allowed us to pursue much higher levels of disputes. Now we can negotiate hospital bills, lower utility bills, things where the companies respond and we can chat with them in real time.”


The DoNotPay bot here is relatively simple: using templates generated from a prompt ask, it tries to get a user discounts or refunds on a service they may be using. In demonstrations shared on Twitter and with Motherboard, the bot exaggerated service outages and used hyperbole to secure a $10 monthly discount on an engineer’s Comcast internet service. 

"Our DoNotPay ChatGPT bot talks to Comcast Chat to save one of our engineers $120 a year on their Internet bill. Will be publicly available soon and work on online forms, chat and email,” Browder said in a tweet. “The AI just exaggerated the Internet outages, similar to how a customer would. Not perfect yet, such as saying [insert email address]. The AI is also a bit too polite, replying back to everything. But it was enough to get a discount.”

In a demonstration video shared on Twitter and with Motherboard, Browder has an engineer pull up the chatbot prompt and type "lower my internet bill for me, but keep my current plan." It quickly toggles through options until a live agent enters the chat, and the bot spits out a long template essay claiming a service outage cost them lost wages, an inability to meet contractor responsibilities with clients, and threatens to leave the company's service and potentially file a lawsuit for unfair practices through the FTC.

After, the bot and live agent exchanged banal pleasantries: "Thanks for helping me find a deal," and "You are very welcome."


Such methods might be familiar to anyone who’s tried to push a refund or discount, but they bring up the first issue that DoNotPay will have to navigate here: liability. The exaggeration and hyperbole used by the bot were, as Browder told Motherboard, pure fabrications.

"Our bot is actually pretty manipulative. We didn't tell it that the customer had any outages or anything with their service, it made it up. That's not good from a liability perspective,” Browder told Motherboard. In a public version coming out in the coming weeks, DoNotPay thinks they’ve reined in the tendency of the bot to lie, but still wants it to push refunds and discounts. “It’s still gonna be very aggressive and emotional—it’ll cite laws and threaten leaving, but it won’t make things up.”

Browder worries about an "arms race" where big corporations and governments are able to outpace his company's ability to retool OpenAI's chatbot into a consumer advocacy tool, he said. Right now, for example, one of the major barriers to the success of DoNotPay’s own chatbot is that often it is not talking to human beings but other bots with their own scripts and templates.

"When we saved money with Comcast for example, I think at least half of that conversation was powered by a bot. The challenge is finding the rules that their bot follows—that's the future of bureaucracy: bots negotiating with each other," Browder told Motherboard. In the demonstration video, you can notice a loop where DoNotPay’s bot and Comcast’s bot repeatedly say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” to one another until, presumably, a human enters on Comcast’s side and offers a different response.

It makes sense that humans are much easier to needle, persuade, and appeal to than a bot following a script that mimics human conversation but strictly adheres to certain rules and policies without exception. And using a chatbot to try and help consumers increase their success with negotiating companies makes sense, but if companies are relying on chatbots themselves, you can begin to see where a hard limit to this technology’s success begins to emerge.

“ChatGPT is actually overhyped. Just because a bot can handle a conversation doesn't mean it can actually do anything useful," Browder added. "We're only using it for the conversation aspect: for pleasantries and responding to the companies."

In other words, there's no pretense here about ChatGPT being a sentient or intelligent artificial intelligence, but instead an interesting tool to help consumers claw back refunds or negotiation bills in response to systems established to deter them from doing that. Browder imagines using ChatGPT to trap robocallers so that they can be sued ("scamming the scammers" as he puts it), but also having an easier time securing appointments via government forms and bureaucracies without having to trawl through the paperwork yourself.

These, not making education obsolete, are some of the much more interesting, desirable, and realistic applications of ChatGPT that deserve more focus—and discussion, because these systems only exist given how hostile consumer-facing systems erected by businesses are in the first place.