Public parking app MonkeyParking suspends service in San Francisco

The move comes following a cease-and-desist demand from the city attorney

Screwing over your fellow citizens with the “help” of an app: so easy a monkey could do it.

Screwing over your fellow citizens with the “help” of an app: so easy a monkey could do it.

MonkeyParking, an app that lets people bid on public parking spaces, said Thursday it will suspend its service in San Francisco to avoid a potential lawsuit from the city attorney.

The app, developed by a company in Rome, lets people bid on parking spots that other users of the app are about to vacate. It's meant to reduce the headache of finding parking, but critics said it also forced people into paying for a free public resource.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the app violated local laws prohibiting people and companies from buying, selling or leasing public on-street parking. His office sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company late last month, threatening a lawsuit and fines after July 11 unless MonkeyParking shut down.

The company resisted at first, arguing it was not the spots people were bidding on, but information about their availability. It now seems to have caved in. In light of the letter, "the bidding service on MonkeyParking has been temporarily disabled in the San Francisco area," the company said in a blog post.

MonkeyParking said it was reviewing its service "to clarify our value proposition and avoid any future misunderstandings." The company said it still wants to be "a positive tool for the city of San Francisco and its inhabitants."

It's not the only app to have sparked criticism recently in San Francisco. Another is ReservationHop, which makes reservations in advance at restaurants and then lets people pay to claim them.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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