I'd agree with others, it looks like auto-exposure may be the culprit. In the view with your lights turned off, the image doesn't actually look any darker - this leads me to believe that the scene isn't being lit by the light objects, but by something else. Maybe ambient light, maybe exterior sunlight. In either case, I'm betting the exposure level is causing the problem, most likely as you noted because you also have a lot of very dark surfaces that are causing the exposure to be bumped up significantly. This is allowing the detail of the dark planes to show up, but is blowing out your white surfaces. This is a pretty common issue, and actually can easily happen with a camera in real life too - it's really a function of our eyes being very good and looking at light and dark portions of our vision at the same time, when in reality the contrast would be too strong.
One thing I frequently do to get around this is I rarely render with surfaces as true white, unless I'm doing everything white for a more diagrammatic look. Otherwise, all white surfaces are actually a very light grey. As long as that light grey is the lightest surface in the image, you won't see it as grey but just white - but the addition of the grey helps cut out some of the wash-out effect of the exposure.