Lawyer bots take the hassle out of fighting parking tickets and property taxes — and could cost local governments real revenue

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A new pain for cities.

After finding a parking ticket lashed to his windshield, Seattle resident Dan Lear normally would have bitten the bullet and paid up, even though he felt misled by street signage.

Instead, Lear decided to try his luck with DoNotPay, a free bot service that streamlines the process of contesting parking tickets. The service helped Lear win a dismissal in 2016, leaving him a little bit richer and Seattle a little bit poorer.

New technology-powered services like DoNotPay, WinIt and TurboAppeal are encouraging more people to challenge legal hassles like inaccurate tickets and property taxes online. While these tools can help citizens avoid unfair penalties, they also might tempt some users to game the system, and could strain the resources of local governments. These potential side effects might come at an inopportune time for municipalities, whose budgets may be squeezed under the new tax rules.

“I guess I’m torn between supporting my local government but also ensuring that people have the right to appeal things that they feel are not fair or not legal,” said the victorious Lear, who is an attorney by trade.

DoNotPay asks users a series of questions, such as whether a parking sign was difficult to read or a ticket had incorrect details, then produces a letter with a formal legal defense that drivers can mail in or submit online.

The free service has helped drivers across the U.S. and the U.K. squash more than 450,000 parking tickets representing $ 13 million in fines; users win dismissals more than 50 percent of the time, by founder Joshua Browder’s estimate. That compares to a dismissal rate of around 35 percent in Los Angeles and 21 percent in New York City.

Parking tickets are “used as a source of revenue, which is wrong, and something I’m trying to change for the longer term,” said Browder, who has been called the “Robin Hood of the internet” by the BBC. Local governments, he added, “generally don’t like me.”

Having recently clinched $ 1.1 million in seed funding, DoNotPay lists investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners and attorneys with the firm Wilson Sonsini. The company plans to expand into helping users fight property taxes and file for divorce, among other things.

WinIt, a mobile app that currently only services New York City but plans to expand this year, takes parking ticket challenges to the next level. It builds a legal defense with minimal or zero input, and then argues for a dismissal, often in court through a partner attorney, and proceeds “even if there’s a 5 percent chance that we can dismiss the ticket,” said WinIt CEO Ouriel Lemmel.

WinIt collects a fee — equal to half the fine — but only if it succeeds. Drivers can even sign up for WinIt’s “Ticket Guardian,” which will automatically challenge any new ticket associated with a customer’s license plate number as soon as it hits a government database.

Companies that depend on drivers are taking note: Ride-sharing app Via and delivery service Postmates both offer discounts on WinIt to their drivers.

WinIt expects to contest 3 percent to 4 percent of all New York City parking tickets this year, which could amount to well over 300,000 tickets, if 2018 ticket volume is similar to previous years. That could represent around $ 6 million in potential lost revenue for the city.

Appealing property taxes

At least one startup is also taking aim at a much larger source of municipal revenue: Property taxes.

Machine-learning-powered TurboAppeal makes it much easier for homeowners to challenge the property assessments used to levy property taxes. The company had raised more than $ 7 million from investors including online mortgage lender Guaranteed Rate, KGC Capital, Hyde Park Venture Partners and real estate brokerage @properties before being acquired by Paradigm Tax Group for an undisclosed sum last year.

Homeowners can get detailed data and instructions that can cut the time needed to prepare a compelling appeal from hours to 30 minutes, according to Stace Hunt, marketing director at Paradigm. Priced at $ 49, the automated service typically costs much less than a property tax attorney.

Amanda McMillan, a Chicago realtor who used TurboAppeal to shave $ 700 off her 2015 tax bill, said a few clients who probably would not have otherwise fought their property taxes followed her advice and gave TurboAppeal a whirl. To their delight, they won reductions, she said.

TurboAppeal had reportedly generated more than 100,000 property tax appeals as of May 2017; it covers 64 counties and 23 million single-family homes and has claimed a success rate of more than 75 percent in the past.

Some data suggests that self-service companies like TurboAppeal and DoNotPay have lots of room to grow.

The opportunity

Public New York City data, along with statistics provided to Recode by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, showed that fewer than 10 percent of parking tickets were challenged in those two cities over the last few years, while less than 5 percent of properties in all but one of New Jersey’s 21 counties saw their tax bills appealed in 2016.

But more fine dismissals and property tax reductions would mean less money for local schools and police departments, noted Megan Randall, a research associate at the Urban Institute. Property taxes reportedly make up roughly 30 percent of local government revenue nationwide.

Illustrating how services that target this revenue could pose a fiscal nuisance, New Jersey’s Monroe County was forced to issue a bond in 2011 to cover $ 5 million in refunds due to a spike in property tax appeals. The increase was driven by the housing meltdown, though the town’s finance director at the time also cited attorneys “trying to convince residents to file mass appeals,” the Star-Ledger reported.

Parking tickets, meanwhile, account for less than 1 percent of local government revenue nationwide, but some municipalities are much more reliant on fines than others.

For example, in 2013, 21 of the 90 municipalities in Missouri’s St. Louis County collected more than 20 percent of revenue from court fines and fees, of which parking and speeding tickets are a large contributor.

Drops in traffic tickets can cut into state budgets, too. A decrease in ticket volume forced the Nevada Supreme Court to seek a bailout in 2015. DoNotPay and WinIt can help users fight moving violations such as speeding tickets, so they could also nibble away at revenue from a range of traffic fines, not just parking tickets.

A jump in appeals would also increase the workload of municipal employees who are tasked with reviewing ticket and tax challenges.

“At this point, we don’t have an automated process, so it may cost our constituents money,” said Mark Granado, manager of parking operations and support for the LA Department of Transportation.

Moreover, many people may use these services to try to game the system, not to right a wrong.

WinIt and DoNotPay can help users get off on technicalities, such as if a ticket incorrectly describes a car’s color or make. Such errors can cost big bucks: New York City recently announced that it would refund a reported $ 26 million worth of parking tickets due to the omission of a zero from the ordinance code on roughly 500,000 tickets.

The government finance, parking enforcement and county appraiser employees that Recode spoke to said they didn’t believe that services such as WinIt, DoNotPay or TurboAppeal have boosted ticket and tax challenges so far, but generally acknowledged the potential for this to occur.

Some, including Granado, the Los Angeles parking enforcement official, said they would welcome services that professionalize more appeals, while a few employees encouraged consumers to consider using government systems, questioning whether third-party services add value.

Asked about concerns with their services, WinIt, DoNotPay and TurboAppeal emphasized that they are simply empowering more consumers to exercise their legal rights.

Municipalities could try to deal with more appeal volume by increasing property tax rates and fines or by investing in technology. But this could be harder than ever, given that the recent tax reform may impose downward pressure on property taxes, among other budget constraints.

“In an ideal world, governments would invest in the necessary resources to adapt,” Randall said in an email. “However, in reality, we often become reliant on private-sector actors who derive material benefit from a complex and opaque tax system.”

Teke Wiggin is a Brooklyn-based reporter who covers technology, labor and housing. Reach him @tkwiggin.

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Skyscanner now lets you book train tickets in the UK

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Edinburgh-based travel search engine Skyscanner has introduced the ability to find and compare train tickets in the UK. The feature is currently available the UK-based users of the iOS app, with the feature due to land on Android shortly. The feature is powered by Trip.com, which is owned by the Chinese travel service Ctrip, which acquired Skyscanner in 2016 for $ 1.7 billion. Tickets are sold without any booking fees (unlike its biggest rival, The Trainline). According to TechCrunch, this feature will also come with 24-hour customer service. There are some limitations, however. Firstly, train journeys are limited to the UK.…

This story continues at The Next Web
The Next Web

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Google Pay v1.54 continues ride toward transit tickets, merging P2P money transfers [APK Teardown]

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

The first update to the Google Pay app since the rebranding has been making its way out into the world. The new version doesn’t appear to bring any visible changes beyond a few pixel-level adjustments, but it includes a couple of neat topics for a teardown. We’ll briefly discuss the eminent merger of Google Pay Send, then dive into the subject of supporting transit tickets, where they might be supported first, and some of the other quirky details to look forward to.

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Google Pay v1.54 continues ride toward transit tickets, merging P2P money transfers [APK Teardown] was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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MoviePass won’t let its customers buy tickets to Red Sparrow in some markets

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

MoviePass is reportedly preventing some of its subscribers from buying tickets to Jennifer Lawrence’s new action movie, seemingly as part of a negotiation strategy with the film industry. In this case, MoviePass users on Twitter have reported running into trouble trying to see Red Sparrow, which is blacked out in the MoviePass mobile app in some markets with a message that reads, “This movie is not supported by MoviePass.”

“We occasionally remove some films from our ticketing inventory in some markets for a limited time, similar to how we organically promote films in certain markets to better understand member behavior,” MoviePass told Slashfilm in a statement. “As part of this ongoing testing, we have stepped up our efforts to remind…

Continue reading…

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Apple Pay Promo Celebrates Oscars With $5 Off Two or More Fandango Movie Tickets

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One week after launching an Instacart promotion for Apple Pay users, Apple’s latest offer for Apple Pay customers is $5 off movie tickets with ticketing service Fandango.

To get the discount, Apple said that you’ll have to order two or more movie tickets in a single transaction within the Fandango app [Direct Link] or on Fandango.com, enter the promo code “STARPOWER” at checkout, and then choose Apple Pay to complete the order to receive $5 off the total.


The promo is tied into the upcoming 90th Academy Awards ceremony and aimed at moviegoers planning on heading to the theater this weekend, expiring on Sunday, March 4. Apple also encourages customers to “Look the part” for their movie night and use Apple Pay at Barneys New York and Ulta Beauty. The company also continues to promote Apple Pay Cash, this time as a solution for you to pay back your friend for the Fandango promotion, since one person has to make the order in a single transaction.

Fandango was one of the first partnerships that Apple launched as a way to promote Apple Pay, also including Postmates, two promos for Instacart, and more.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Fandango. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Related Roundups: Apple Pay, Apple Deals

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Google Pay v1.53 rolls out major redesign, prepares transit tickets and custom card art [APK Teardown]

Cash For Apps: Make money with android app

Google announced earlier today that it’s taking the plunge with the Google Pay branding, meaning the Android Pay and Google Wallet names and branding are officially canned. To go along with the shift, a new version of the Android Pay…err, Google Pay app is rolling out with an updated look. It’s going to take a little while to get used to that name. There are also some clues about what’s to come, but we’ll get to that in the teardown.

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Google Pay v1.53 rolls out major redesign, prepares transit tickets and custom card art [APK Teardown] was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Ford Patented a Self-Driving Police Car That Even Writes Tickets

The Ford Motor Company — one of America’s ‘Big Three’ auto-giants — has a [troubling] vision of changing the way police officers issue traffic and vehicle citations.

Strange as it may seem, The Washington Post reports that earlier this year, Ford filed a patent covering its vision of an autonomous police car — an actual, next-generation police cruiser, which would be functionally equipped with technologies allowing it to issue traffic tickets wirelessly.

“The autonomous police cars may have cameras and lasers to detect traffic violators,” MotorTrend explains, adding that “Once [the autonomous police car] identifies a vehicle that is violating traffic laws, it pulls the vehicle over.”

At that point, with minimal intervention on the officer’s part, the car captures an image of the license plate; it then receives an image of the driver’s license, and ultimately uses that information to scan police databases and determine whether a warning or citation should be issued.

If that’s not creepy enough these cars are capable of being trained via machine learning to help ‘map out’ the best hiding spots — so as to “nab speeders and other types of traffic violators” quicker and easier.

When Are They Coming?

While the sheer thought of an autonomous police car roaming the streets is bound to irk the hell out of most drivers, it’s worth pointing out the inherent patent is merely a concept at this point.

And while the literature goes on to suggest that these cars may allow officers to devote their time to “more difficult tasks that can’t be automated,” it stands to reason we may never even see these things. Ford admitted that it’s unsure of whether these cars will ever be produced, saying in a statement issued to The Washington Post that “We submit patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business. Patent applications are intended to protect new ideas but aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans.”

iDrop News

Google Maps v9.70 beta enables adding and removing visited places, prepares to display showtimes and sell tickets, continues work on shortcuts, and much more [APK Teardown]

Google Maps has a new beta peeking out on devices. After a great deal of poking around, the list of changes for the interface is pretty sparse, but as always, there’s a ton to discuss from the teardown. There’s more from the home screen shortcuts, showtimes with ticket sales, detail fields for food photos, and way more.

What’s New

Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)

  • Add / Remove places visited

Manually add or remove visited places

If you’re looking back through places you’ve been, the most convenient route is through the ‘Your places’ screen with the ‘Visited’ tab.

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Google Maps v9.70 beta enables adding and removing visited places, prepares to display showtimes and sell tickets, continues work on shortcuts, and much more [APK Teardown] was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Future T-Mobile Tuesdays will offer $4 movie tickets to Maze Runner, Deadpool 2, and other movies

Turns out that yesterday’s Maze Runner prize was the start of a new partnership between T-Mobile and Twentieth Century Fox. T-Mobile customers will be able to buy $ 4 movie tickets to five upcoming Twentieth Century Fox films for T-Mobile Tuesdays. The deals will start on January 23rd, when T-Mo customers can claim a $ 4 ticket to see Maze Runner: The Death Cure. The movie opens on January 26th and the offer must be redeemed … [read full article]

The post Future T-Mobile Tuesdays will offer $ 4 movie tickets to Maze Runner, Deadpool 2, and other movies appeared first on TmoNews.

TmoNews

Lea’s live event assistant for Messenger makes buying tickets easier

 Buying event tickets online isn’t a great experience. Sites like Ticketmaster are the default, but are difficult to use and expensive. A startup called Lea wants to offer a more modern experience by combining event search, discovery, seat selection and payment all in a single application that works right in Facebook Messenger. Yes, that’s right – Lea is a chatbot. And while… Read More
Mobile – TechCrunch