The FTC is as annoyed as the rest of us that McDonald’s McFlurry ice cream machines always seem to be broken – and has reportedly started an inquiry.
The Federal Trade Commission reached out to McDonald’s franchisees over the summer seeking information on the frequently broken machines, according to a letter seen by the Wall Street Journal.
Regular customers have complained for years that the machines are often out of order when they stop to pick up an iced treat.
A website called McBroken even tracks the number of broken McDonald’s ice cream machines across the country. As of Wednesday afternoon, 9.88 percent of them were offline.
And McDonald’s franchises have long complained about the overly complicated machines with cleaning cycles that can take up to four hours.
The National Owners Association, a group of franchisees, said in a message to owners in May: We are tired of being the butt of late-night jokes. So are our customers and crews.’
The machines, made by Illinois-based kitchen equipment company Taylor, have a lot of moving parts that get cold for ice cream but hot for cleaning.
If the cycle is not completed, it renders the machines unusable and it can take months to get a repairman in to fix it.
The FTC is reportedly looking at how McDonald’s reviews suppliers and equipment, including the temperamental ice cream machines, according to the Journal.
The FTC reportedly sent a letter earlier this summer to franchise owners seeking information as to why the machines are always breaking down
A site called McBroken (pictured) shows customers which locations have working and broken machines to avoid the devastating disappointment of a walking out without any ice cream
But the inquiry is in its early stages, according to the July letter, and ‘the existence of a preliminary investigation does not indicate the FTC or its staff have found any wrongdoing.’
McDonald’s told the Journal it had no reason to believe it was being investigated by the FTC.
The inquiry comes after the Biden Administration announced plans to crack down on manufacturers making machines that customer’s can’t fix on their own.
In July, the Biden Administration announced the government to promote competition between manufacturers, which is will lower cost to the consumers.
And Taylor’s exclusive repair agreement could explain why the machines are down for so long, powering a never-ending stream of grievances about missed McFlurries.
Taylor charges McDonald’s $18,000 per machine and forces franchisees to use its own network of repair services, according to Wired.
A rival manufacturer has even claimed that Taylor’s created the machines with faulty software in order to boost profits from the cost of repairing them.
The Federal Trade Commission has reportedly launched an investigation into McDonald’s notoriously broken ice cream machines
But a Taylor’s representative told the Journal ‘There is no reason for us to purposely design our equipment to be confusing or hard to repair or hurt our operators.’
They added: ‘A lot of what’s been broadcasted can be attributed to the lack of knowledge about the equipment and how they operate in the restaurants. you have to make sure the machine is cleaned properly. The machines are built up with a lot of interconnecting parts that have to operate in a complex environment and manner.’
Frustrated McDonald’s workers have even used ‘jumpers,’ or small metal or plastic brackets that can be installed on the electric pins in the back of the unit to bypass software that makes them inoperable unless they’ve been cleaned, according to Motherboard.
McDonald’s ice cream machines, made by Illinois-based company Taylor, are often broken down. Ten percent of them are offline across the US as of Wednesday afternoon
Kytch, a California-based tech firm, alleges that the machines’ software contains ‘flawed code that caused the machines to malfunction’ and created a patch that quickly fixed the problem.
Once the device, about the size of a small book, is installed on the machine, workers can make simple repairs through an app without having to wait around for a Taylor-approved technician.
That, however, did not sit well with Taylor executives, who told McDonald’s and its franchisees that the ‘Kytch device is dangerous,’ the software maker claimed.
‘These guys did a really effective job at frightening off all of our customers and investors so we’re hoping the public will support our case in the name of justice, right to repair and humanity,’ Kytch co-founder Jeremy O’Sullivan told Motherboard.
Taylor built its own version of the patch to keep making money off repairs.
Taylor charges McDonald’s $18,000 per machine and forces them to use their own repairmen
Kytch accused Taylor of getting its devices from a McDonald’s franchisee, according to Motherboard.
But the company’s chief operating officer said it sought the Kytch device ‘in order to evaluate and assess its potential technology-related impacts upon our Soft Serve Machine.’
‘Such as whether the radio frequency of the Kytch device would interfere with our software signal, or whether the Kytch device would drain the power source of our software and/or cause it malfunction,’ according to court documents.
That brought the ice cream vending war to a head as Kytch took Taylor to court for copying its device. A California judge issued a restraining order against Taylor on July 30.
Taylor was ordered to turn in all of its Kytch devices within 24 hours of the restraining order.
Broken down McFlurry machines are the butt of multiple jokes and complaints online
Kytch claims loss off business from Taylor copying its product.
‘We still have some diehard customers sticking with us. Though few in comparison to what we once had before McDonald’s and Taylor called our product dangerous.’
McDonald’s did not respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com