McDonald’s is known for its iconic Big Mac sandwiches, ball pits, and regularly broken McFlurry machines. In fact, fans of the world’s largest fast-food chain restaurant are so familiar with McFlurry machines being “out-of-order” that it’s a running joke that has earned a website to track the machines’ statuses: McBroken.com.
According to the Wall Street Journal, however, the Federal Trade Commission does not think it is a laughing matter and is now looking into an investigation on the Golden Arches.
The actual source of the issue surrounds the repair of the machines manufactured by the 95-year old Taylor Company and the “Right to Repair” movement. In July, President Biden ordered the FTC to review legislation regarding a person’s prerogative to fix one’s own electronics but extended the order to cover businesses as well.
Historically, buyers who made any attempt to address malfunctioning equipment voided their warranties. Therefore, the only proper course of action was to go through the company, which could then charge any kinds of fees they wanted – and that’s if the company even chose to honor the warranty.
Tim Wu, a special assistant to the president within the National Economic Council, spoke with Wired Magazine about how that policy has hindered competition as well as subjugated consumers to monopolizing tactics from big businesses. “When you buy an expensive product, whether it’s a half-a-million-dollar tractor or a thousand-dollar phone, you are in a very real sense under the power of the manufacturer,” he said. “And when they have repair specifications that are unreasonable, there’s not a lot you can do.”
In 2019, a company called Kytch developed equipment that would help McDonald’s franchisees diagnose and repair the soft serve machines on their own. Note that Taylor soft serve machines reportedly cost $18,000 each and have to be cleaned biweekly via complete disassembly.
This news didn’t apparently did not sit well with McDonald’s or the Taylor company; the former warned franchisees that Kytch technology could lead to “serious human injury,” and the latter filed a lawsuit against Kytch to block the company from providing their tech to franchisees. Furthermore, Taylor allegedly tried to steal Kytch equipment in the hopes of reverse-engineering it to create their own products.
But on July 30, a California judge sided with Kytch, slapped Taylor with a 30-day restraining order, and demanded Taylor turn over any physical equipment or intellectual property it illegally acquired within 24 hours of the order. Clearly, neither Mickey D’s nor Taylor is loving it.
“We are optimistic that the truth will prevail,” Melissa Nelson, Kytch’s co-founder, told Vice last month. “It’s disgusting that such lengths were taken to steal our trade secrets, destroy our business, and to stand in the way of modernizing kitchens… But our case makes clear that it’s past time to end shady business practices that create hundreds of millions of dollars of unnecessary repair fees from ‘certified’ technicians.”