At this point, just about every honest ice cream fiend has had to contend with the soul-crushing defeat of trekking down to McDonald’s only to find an out-of-service machine coldly laughing at their pain. Now, however, thanks to a new lawsuit, all those collective letdowns could cost the fast-food giant nearly a billion dollars.
The recently launched lawsuit came by way of Kytch, a Californian-based tech startup that created a tool allowing ice cream owners to remotely monitor and control their devices and gain access to diagnostics. Kytch claims this tool lets owners “prevent outages before the machine can detect an error.” McDonald’s, to put it lightly, isn’t a fan of Kytch’s solution.
In its suit, Kytch accused the fast-food giant of sending out emails to McDonald’s franchise owners advising them not to use Kytch’s product, warning it posed safety risks and that using it could violate the machine’s warranties. Kytch disagrees with both of those claims and is now seeking $900 million in damages from McDonald’s, who they claim used false advertising to disparage and defame their company.
“Kytch brings this action to set the record straight, to vindicate the company’s rights under civil law, to curb McDonald’s anticompetitive conduct, to recover compensatory and punitive damages, to protect the consuming public from false and misleading advertisements, and to finally fix McDonald’s broken soft-serve machines,” Kytch argued in the suit.
The lawsuit also targets the Taylor Company, the main provider of McDonald’s ice cream machines. Kytch accused McDonald’s of granting Taylor a “monopoly” over the machines and their repairs, claiming the two companies “held bi-weekly meetings devoted to copying Kytch’s Technology.” Kytch claims this “lucrative” and fundamentally anti-competitive arrangement between McDonald’s and Taylor “generates millions of dollars of revenue for Taylor and its network of franchised distributors.”
Kytch’s founders meanwhile told Insider McDonald’s had “destroyed” its business beyond repair. McDonald’s did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment but told Insider the safety certifications listed in Kytch’s complaints do not meet the requirements the company has for the equipment in its restaurants. McDonald’s also held fast to claims Kytch’s software could lead to injuries in some scenarios and said Kytch’s complaint was without merit.
Though this particular lawsuit is new, public outrage over McDonald’s often broken machines isn’t. For years, angry customers have flooded complaints to McDonald’s and on social media demanding explanations for the device’s lackluster performance. Public outrage got so heated that the Federal Trade Commission reportedly decided to step in and investigate last year.
There’s even a site, aptly called McBroken, solely dedicated to tracking which machines are currently out of use throughout the U.S. At the time of writing about 11.7% of McDonald’s’ machines were reportedly out of use, with New York City featuring the largest percentage of broken machines of any U.S. city.
You can read the full complaint below.