Following a recent increase in media coverage of McDonald’s perpetually down McFlurry machines, the federal government is entering the fray. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants the scoop on Mickey D’s notoriously unreliable soft-serve equipment.
The antitrust agency contacted the owners of McDonald’s franchises, who received letters of investigation earlier this summer, on the Wall Street newspaper reports. Among the things the feds want to know? How often franchisees are allowed to repair their own ice cream machines.
The faulty equipment probe was described as exploratory in a letter consulted by The newspaper. “The existence of a preliminary investigation does not indicate that the FTC or its staff have found wrongdoing,” the agency wrote.
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But those familiar with the long and winding history of McDonald’s McFlurry woes may not be surprised to learn of the federal government’s intervention. McDonald’s ice cream equipment is well known for its frequent breakdowns. Countless social media comments document the dramaIn addition, there is a website called McBroken that tracks “out of service” machines. Mickey D’s even joked about his woes in an infamous tweet from 2020 which has since garnered nearly 30,000 likes.
Public scrutiny was raised a notch after the announcement earlier this year of a lawsuit against Taylor, the leading maker of ice cream machines. Kytch, a tech company that created a diagnostic tool that allows McDonald’s restaurant owners to tune machines and avoid costly breakdowns, alleged that Taylor and a McDonald’s franchisee conspired to duplicate its technology.
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Kytch’s trial is still pending in California Superior Court. While McDonald’s was not directly involved in the complaint, that didn’t stop Jeremy O’Sullivan, Kytch’s co-founder, from shooting the burger this spring. With franchisees apparently being forced into costly repair deals with Taylor, O’Sullivan suggested that McDonald’s was complicit in a shakedown.
“It’s a huge source of money to have a customer who is deliberately, intentionally blind and unable to make very fundamental changes to their own equipment,” said O’Sullivan. Wired in April.
Whether this claim holds up in court remains to be seen. Legal drama aside, let’s hope the ultimate solution will be ice cream that is readily available to the masses.
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