FTC Investigating McDonald’s Broken Ice Cream Machines

Going to McDonald’s for a McFlurry is always a McGamble. The fast-food chain’s ice cream machines are notoriously fickle. They’re so famously unreliable someone created a website solely dedicated to tracking machines broken in the US at any moment. It really feels true that McDonald’s ice cream machines break a lot.

Well, McFlurry fans are not the only ones aware of this issue. The US government itself has taken notice. The Federal Trade Commission has begun an investigation into these broken McDonald’s ice cream machines. But this investigation goes beyond just making sure we can get a vanilla shake when we want one. In fact, the lack of ice cream pales in comparison to the true issue.

A McDonald's McFlurry with the straw spoon in it - why are McDonald's ice cream machine always broken?


The Wall Street Journal reports (in a story we first came across at Business Insider) that the FTC has been sending letters to McDonald’s locations around the country asking exactly the question customers have wanted to know for years: why are McDonald’s ice cream machines always broken? That might sound frivolous, but the investigation is anything but. The FTC actually wants to know who can fix the machines when they do fail.

McDonald’s gets its frozen treat machines from the Taylor company. As BI notes, those devices require incredible upkeep to maintain food safety standards. They are very tough to fix. Some seem to think that’s intentional. Only a trained technician can get the ice cream machines back up and running. Or at least that was the case until another company, Kytch, came along. Kytch gave franchise owners a diagnostic tool they could use to fix their own machines. A win for both owners and customers.

But the McDonald’s corporation did not sanction the tool. Following that, Kytch filed a lawsuit. It alleged Taylor was stealing intellectual property and infringing on franchisees’ rights to fix their own machines. And that’s what got the Federal Trade Commission involved. It’s not about a lack of ice cream but about who gets to control a machine post-purchase. This is a much bigger commerce concern. BI explains these probes are “investigating whether or not manufacturers obstruct consumers from fixing the projects themselves.”

As of now, the FTC is only engaging in a preliminary investigation. There’s no guarantee it will lead to anything. Additionally, the presence of an investigation does not indicate any wrongdoing. There’s also no specific guarantee the investigation will bring more reliable McDonald’s ice cream machines either. But at least someone with some real authority is looking into it. Maybe we’ll finally be able to get our McFlurry McNow.

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