By Natalie DeCoste

It seems that the McDonald’s McFlurry machines are always broken. The situation has gotten so bad that it’s become a widely circulated internet meme. However, it seems the breakdowns have gone a bridge too far as they have now spurred a federal investigation.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been made aware of the constant breakdowns and reached out to McDonald’s this past summer seeking information on the broken ice cream machine problem that plagues the fast-food chain.

The launching of the investigation is most likely related to the right to repair movement. Starting back in May, the FTC submitted a report to Congress titled “Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions.” The report highlighted eight different types of repair restrictions and explained how these restrictions harm consumers’ ability to make repairs on their goods. 

By the start of July, President Joe Biden ordered the FTC to draft new rules that would give consumers and businesses the ability to repair devices on their own. This led to the five FTC commissioners unanimously adopted a policy supporting the right to repair at the end of July.

“These types of (repair) restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs and undermine resiliency. The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said

Now it appears the McDonald’s McFlurry machine has gotten caught up in the repair movement, something that probably should have happened years ago. McDonald’s employees and franchise owners have long complained about the difficult and overly complicated process for fixing the broken machines. Owners claim that the machines require a nightly automated heat-cleaning cycle to destroy bacteria that can last up to four hours. Should the cleaning cycle fail, the machines become unusable until a repair technician can get them going again.

While the FTC is just now jumping on the bandwagon to call for easier McFlurry machine repairs, this is not the first time legal action against the machine has come into play. The only certified technician for the McFlurry machines, Taylor, had been caught up in a lawsuit alleging the company had monopoly control on the repairs and had attempted to maintain that monopoly by telling McDonald’s franchisees that using an alternative repair device made by a company called Kytch could cause “serious human injury.” A federal judge recently sided with Kytch over Taylor.

The FTC uncovering a hidden trove of information about how to repair the ice cream machines could significantly help consumers gain access to ice cream and help McDonald’s keep up its sales. The machines in question account for about 60% of the chain’s dessert sales in the U.S., according to a consumer survey by research firm Technomic Inc.