Reddit users are great at helping each other deal with utilities like Comcast (

64% of American homes are reached by only 1 or 2 broadband providers ( Since competition is limited, the incentive to treat customers fairly is weak. The result is that subscription TV ranks 43 out of 43 for customer satisfaction.

Lawyers cost $200+ per hour -- too expensive to resolve most everyday disputes with these companies. Consumer class actions sometimes used to provide the necessary economies of scale, but in 2011, AT&T got the Supreme Court's blessing, on behalf of all companies, to use customer agreements to preclude them ( Instead, they require arbitration. But the informational, logistical, financial and psychological barriers to arbitration mean only 1 in 4 million customers avails herself of it (

I'm Jon Fougner, a Yale law school graduate and founder of David ( We're building software to help you resolve everyday disputes efficiently and without financial risk. So far, we're available for customers of AT&T, Comcast, TWC and Verizon in New York State. I want to answer your hypothetical questions about what to do if a cable or wireless company has broken its promises or given you terrible customer service. Although I'm a licensed attorney, I won't be your attorney or providing you legal advice tailored to your personal situation.

Proof: pinned post on Facebook:

Comments: 49 • Responses: 16  • Date: 

SuaveMF6 karma

Fellow attorney here and someone with 20(+) years software developer experience. Tells us why we should be excited....can you give us the spiel with a common hypo?

jonfougner11 karma

Hypo: Suppose your cable company promises that your bill will be $100 per month but instead it's $150. Is it worth spending hours on the phone trying to get them to correct it, getting your call passed around like a hot potato, being left on hold and even hung up on -- all for $50 (or $0)? David lets you produce a demand letter in 5 minutes at no upfront cost, which the cable company takes more seriously than a call to customer support.

On the software development side, something to be excited about is the mobile-first approach, responsive UI, single-page app with Ember.js, using Django on the back end.

Give us your feedback on both!

beefsupreme2 karma

So this is a professional lawyer sounding letter generator?

jonfougner2 karma

That depends on what the lawyers you know sound like -- have a look at the letter, which you can see without taking out your credit card, and decide for yourself.

But you're getting at something very deep here: our deeply ingrained assumption that it's somehow natural or OK that no one other than a tiny subset of the population should have access to the supposedly public rules that we are all governed by -- the same rules of which our government reminds us "ignorance is not an excuse."

JustLogginMyThoughts2 karma

David lets you produce a demand letter in 5 minutes at no upfront cost, which the cable company takes more seriously than a call to customer support.

Is there any risk of them no longer taking demand letters seriously if they believe users aren't going to follow up?

jonfougner2 karma

By all means, users should follow up. What we've heard time and again from friends, family, colleagues and users is not that they're unwilling to follow up with their telco, but rather that when they do follow up, they're treated dismissively: bounced around from rep to rep; told there's no record or recording of the last call; been promised corrections only to see the same problems persist; and so forth.

But perhaps you're also asking: if a provider doesn't take phone calls seriously, why would it take a letter seriously? There are a few reasons. Take AT&T as an example. AT&T has placed a $10,000 bounty on its own head ( If you win more from it in arbitration than it offered you in response to your notice of dispute, it pays you $10,000. Why does it do this? Justice Scalia's plurality opinion in the landmark 2011 case upholding class action bans ( approvingly refers to the bounty, then $7,500, as offering viable access to justice in lieu of class actions. Although the Italian Colors Restaurant case 2 years later represented another setback for class actions (, had Justice Sotomayor taken part in that case, it is likely that she would have dissented, as she did in the AT&T case. So you have 4 Supreme Court justices who disapprove of the increasingly muscular interpretation that their colleagues are affording to the Federal Arbitration Act, and even among the 5 who are taking the expansive view of the FAA (or at least 4 of them), they mention the bounties as part of the reason why.

volcom03163 karma

I have two questions. 1. Do the companies that are listed on your website have agreements with your website to resolve the disputes? 2. If more websites like this existed that would help settle disputes would the need for lawyers decline causing a decrease in the amount of lawyers working?


jonfougner5 karma

  1. David is independent of the companies listed on the website and does not have agreements with them to resolve disputes. David's software lets you resolve disputes with those companies using pre-existing dispute resolution frameworks, such as the "notice of dispute" that AT&T and Verizon purport to require as a prerequisite to taking them to arbitration.

  2. There is an enormous need for lawyers. 85% of Americans with serious legal problems don't seek the help of a lawyer, often due to cost. The tool David currently offers would not be appropriate for all types of disputes with your telco. For instance, especially if your dispute is high-stakes or complex, you should consider hiring a lawyer. But technology has an important role to play in helping people who can't afford, or choose not to use, lawyers.

Lawyers simply aren't taking on small disputes, because their fees exceed what the recovery would be. That's a big part of why only 1 in 4 million AT&T customers takes it to arbitration, despite widespread dissatisfaction with it.

NorbitGorbit3 karma

have you thought of teaming up with a call center to outsource the dispute resolution process entirely (basically your call centers calling comcast's call centers)?

jonfougner5 karma

It's an interesting question. Historically, there have been so many asymmetries between large corporations and individual consumers.

One is the use of call centers. Another is the use of form letters. A third is repeat player advantage in litigation. If we believe in equality under the law rather than "might makes right", it's not clear whether these asymmetries are appropriate.

What do you think?

NorbitGorbit2 karma

It seems like it would be a reasonable way to level the playing field. are you uncomfortable using a call center that way?

jonfougner1 karma

Our focus is on software. In the product we currently offer, we don't act as the user's representative (whether by phone, letter, in-person, etc.). We offer software for the user to communicate and to represent himself or herself.

One challenge to using a call center to call into a telco's call center is that your call center will face a lot of the same problems that we all do as consumers when we call these companies: IVRs (not humans) answer the phone and misroute our calls; we're left on hold; we're told inaccurate information; we're hung up on; we're told that the rep is powerless to rectify the company's misconduct; we're told that only a "supervisor" can fix the problem; we're told we'll get a call back and never do; and so forth.

More generally, any time you're interfacing with a broken system, there's a strong lowest-common-denominator effect -- it's hard for the newer, better system to pull up the broken system to its level.

David is very new and we have a lot of exploring and growth ahead of us. I'm still curious to hear your ideas on call centers as you may have thought of things we haven't considered yet.

X_SADBOY_X2 karma

Is this going to work with Sprint any time soon? My parents are having trouble with them and this would be a great thing for them.

jonfougner1 karma

Hey, thanks for the question. That would make me a sad boy, too. We don't have a launch date to share for Sprint right now.

What trouble are your parents having?

X_SADBOY_X1 karma

They were paying around $300 dollars with Verizon and then decided to switch to Sprint with the cut the bill in half event. When the first bill arrived the bill was like double than $300 so we weren't paying half. My parents have been going to Sprint and calling them to get it fixed but so far it's been useless.

jonfougner3 karma

Bait and switch -- an oldie but a goodie. We've hand-coded hundreds and hundreds of consumer complaints about telcos; bait-and-switch is one of the most common.

If memory serves, I saw that Sprint cut-your-bill-in-half ad, with a ton of fine print next to it. An interesting question to research is whether fine print that, by virtue of its tininess or brevity, is de facto illegible, actually serves its intended purpose as a disclaimer. Judges and juries are people, too, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear them answer "no."

gg_s2 karma

I can't help but get the impression that you are stoking the animosity between disgruntled customers and telecom companies for business purposes.

Before we automatically assume bait-and-switch, perhaps further examination of the bill is in order. It is not uncommon for a first bill to include a prorated first month and a full second month on the same statement, not to mention setup fees associated with new accounts. These "double bills" come as a shock but they are above board.

Traditional billing systems bill one month ahead, so September's bill is charging for service to be received in October. If September is the first month, you will be charged for September and October to bring the billing system up to date. You are not being charged twice. Without this initial "double bill," you would have to pay the bill in September but wait until October for service to start.

Judges and juries are people, too, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear them answer "no."

This is blatant pandering to the indignant. I've been on the inside taking calls from angry, disgruntled customers. Most of them lie (demonstrably). They are some of the most petulant, greedy, dishonest people I've ever encountered. Their childish antics clog up the works and prevent customers with legitimate complaints from getting the resolution they deserve. And you want them as customers...

Fanning the flames is brilliant marketing, but it'll only make matters worse.

jonfougner1 karma

Neither consumers nor telcos should lie when communicating with each other, in whatever medium. You’re right that consumers should try to parse their cell phone bills. Unfortunately, as the FCC has noted (, that’s not always easy. If the issue here is a legitimate pro-rated or otherwise special first-month bill, it’s surprising that that was clear to the parents neither upon reading the bill nor upon going to Sprint.

wojx2 karma

Since you aren't in California yet, the only other way to do this would be to get a lawyer?

I played around with the questionnaire, looks great! Good luck!

jonfougner2 karma

Thanks! We all have the right to represent ourselves if we decide not to hire a lawyer.

If you want to do the sort of extensive legal research that went into the copyrighted essay that David users are licensed to excerpt in their demand letters, there are some free alternatives (to the traditional paid services, Westlaw and Lexis Nexis), such as Justia and CaseBriefs. The relevant law is a mix of state and federal, coming from cases, statutes and regulations. Unfortunately, if you're not legally trained (and even if you are), parsing through this information is byzantine, in part because the incumbents in the industry have incentives to keep it inaccessible.


Why did you pick the name David?

jonfougner5 karma

It's an allusion to the historical figure David, who faced the bigger but less agile Goliath and prevailed. Our hope is for you to be David.

Like Goliath, big corporations have obvious advantages and less obvious disadvantages. The latter include bureaucracy, politics, risk aversion, being taken for granted, and the innovator's dilemma ( Historically, in their legal interactions with consumers, corporations' advantages have generally outweighed their disadvantages. With technology, it's not clear that that will continue to be true.

ProfessionalDicker1 karma

Have you ever seen the movie Houseguest?

jonfougner1 karma

No but I'm in the middle of Sopranos (finally) so I'll add it to the list afterwards :)

ProfessionalDicker1 karma

Want to hang out after this AMA and watch it with me?

jonfougner1 karma

If you promise that your TWC connection won't brown out.

majorscheiskopf1 karma

To what extent do you believe the model you use for David is applicable to other common low-stakes disputes, say contract law as it applies to renting?

There seems to be enormous potential in using technology to lower the barrier to entry hiring a lawyer represents- David seems like an incredibly important first step towards constructing that technology.

jonfougner1 karma

Thanks -- I agree. Technology has the potential to improve access to justice in a wide variety of contexts. A lot of friends and David users tell me they'd like us to build a product for renters.

I lived in a house one summer that was so rotten, it must have been on the verge of being condemned. There's a California statute that allows renters in situations like that to repair the damage and withhold the cost from rent ( Even one of the guys in the house who was a lawyer wasn't familiar with that law. The fact is, law is incredibly complex, even lawyers need technology to help navigate it.

PS: Re renting: You're right that it involves contract law (including both state statutory law and state common law), and it also involves property law (traditionally common law, increasingly statutory).

Xiizhan1 karma

I received a call from someone representing TWC offering me "92 channels including ESPN and Comedy Central for $10 a month." When the box came and I hooked it all up, I had around 20 channels or so. I called and talked to someone working for TWC somewhere in upstate NY, and he said I was subscribed to the "Starter" package, and the small amount of channels was what he would expect me to have. I brought the entirety of the box back to my local TWC office, and cancelled the TV portion of my plan today. My question is, was there anything I could have done to have TWC honor the offer I accepted, or was that just a sales rep either lying or untrained, and the deal was never possible? If I was maximally savvy about dealing with TWC in this case, what would I have done differently? Thanks!

jonfougner1 karma

I'm not in a position to give you specific advice on your personal situation, but some of what you're asking about is New York's law of agency. In general in New York, a principal may be liable on contracts entered into by its agent if the agent has actual express authority, actual implied authority, apparent authority or inherent authority (Whew!), or if the principal ratifies the contract after the fact. For an overview of agency law, check out Wikipedia:

If TWC broke its promises to you, consider giving David a try and letting us know your feedback on it.

avaseyrockz0 karma

File suit against?

jonfougner1 karma

Help me understand what exactly you're asking here...