McDonald’s infamous broken ice cream machines have become pseudo icons in their own right in the US. But now the company might be in a legal pickle due to their perpetually broken machines. The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is now contacting McDonald’s franchisees over information regarding the broken ice cream machines, reported The Wall Street Journal.
The ice cream machine is responsible for creating over 60 percent of the desserts sold in McDonald’s locations across the US. Repeated breakdowns have become a headache for both customers and owners.
The machines are manufactured by Taylor Commercial Foodservice LLC and have often been criticised for being “over-engineered” and hard to repair. The machine undergoes an automated heat-cleaning cycle every night to sterilise it after exposure to dairy throughout the day. The cycle lasts over four hours and is the most common point of failure for the machines. They are engineered in such a way that owners cannot fix the machines themselves, and if they do, the warranties are voided. Business owners have to rely on Taylor repairmen from authorised third party service providers.
McDonald’s for its part has said it will be introducing additional training for employees and regular maintenance checks to keep the machines in order.
"A lot of what’s been broadcast can be attributed to the lack of knowledge about the equipment and how they operate in the restaurants," a Taylor representative said in response.
The FTC sent out letters asking for details about the machines earlier in the year. According to the WSJ, the FTC letter enquired from franchisees about how McDonald’s chooses its suppliers and its equipment, including the infamous ice cream machines, and how owners are allowed to fix their own machines.
While the FTC refused to comment on the development, many believe that McDonald’s is just one of the many companies under scrutiny from the Biden administration. The new administration has increasingly taken cognisance of companies that have created barriers for their customers from easily repairing or replacing their purchased products. The FTC had in July said it would be investigating matters relating to repair restrictions.
Right to repair
The issue in question becomes a part of the larger ‘right to repair’ issue that has gotten more traction in the US over the past couple of years. Companies, especially those manufacturing tech equipment and machines, have been accused by activists, consumers and third-party repair technicians of intentionally making repairs harder.
Companies like John Deere, which manufactures tractors, have been sued by customers because of restrictions imposed by the company towards letting consumers repair their vehicles. Apple, which famously prefers providing replacements over repairs, has also come under fire for providing poor repair services and impeding consumers from repairing devices on their own.
The issue is not isolated to the US as well. The UK recently passed the Right to Repair Act, which compels manufacturers to provide spare parts for devices to consumers and third-party companies.
Similar laws are being considered in other countries which plan to provide more power to the consumer and at the same time reduce e-waste by extending the lifecycle of products. Similar laws, and perhaps the best example of it, have existed for a long time. The Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, which compelled the automobile industry to manufacture spare parts for consumers and repair technicians, was passed in 2001.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First Published: IST