Apple reaches $50 million settlement over MacBook keyboard complaints

Apple on Monday agreed to pay a $50 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit over so-called butterfly keyboards, a component on some MacBook laptops that has left many users furious with the frustration of breaking keys over typing failures.

The butterfly keyboard, a slimmer model meant to provide more precision, ended up not being as elegant as the flapping wings of the nectar-seeking creature. Many customers complained that characters repeated when pressed or did not appear at all on their screens. Some said the devices had keys that felt sticky and weren’t consistently responsive.

The typing issues prompted a class action lawsuit filed in 2018, which led to the settlement filed Monday night after four years of litigation in the San Jose Division of the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Apple said the settlement did not represent an admission that it was at fault.

US District Judge Edward J. Davila still has to approve the proposal, said Simon S. Grille, attorney for the plaintiffs.

“Plaintiffs are pleased to submit for court approval their $50 million settlement with Apple that would resolve many years of litigation over the MacBook butterfly keyboard,” Grille and Steven A. Schwartz, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “MacBook buyers across the country are eligible to participate.”

As a result of the settlement, Apple could soon make amends with MacBook users who fixed a laptop with a faulty butterfly keyboard from 2015 to 2019. Customers said the company knew about the defect in these MacBooks; Apple offered free repairs to customers with faulty keyboards in 2018 and later removed them.

The company has proposed paying amounts ranging from $50 to $395 to affected customers.

The lawsuit represents buyers of about 15 million computers, according to court documents.

Apple “strongly denies liability,” court documents say. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

“The proposed settlement to resolve this case is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing of any kind by Apple,” the settlement says.

Anyone in the United States who received repairs for keyboard problems for MacBooks purchased from 2015 to 2017, MacBook Pros from 2016 to 2019, and MacBook Airs from 2018 to 2019 can claim a portion of the settlement. The company will consider customers who received replacements of a “top case,” which includes the battery, touch-sensitive pointing device known as a trackpad, speakers, and keyboard, or a “keycap,” which refers to the covers of the letters. on the keyboard

“All Settlement Class Members who went to Apple or an Authorized Service Provider and received a ‘replacement top case’ or ‘replacement key’ within four years of the date they purchased the computer from the class are eligible for a cash payment,” the court documents say. .

Customers will be classified into one of three groups, based on the scale of repairs their devices received at that time.

The first group includes people who got two or more topcase replacements, according to court documents. They will be paid a maximum of $395.

The second group, users who received a replacement top case that did not resolve their issues, will receive up to $125. The third group includes people who replaced a key, but not the entire trunk. They will be eligible up to $50.

Many customers will be contacted by Apple, but people can also file claims with documentation showing that the repairs were made.

The plaintiffs representing the consumers intend to request awards of up to $5,000 each of the settlement money, according to court documents.

Apple introduced the troubled keyboards with an “all-new MacBook” in 2015. The butterfly referred to a novel switching mechanism that expanded like wings under the keys, as opposed to the more common, thicker scissor-shaped switches. . The keyboard was listed as “34 percent thinner” and “four times more stable” than the previous scissor model. But it also seemed prone to collecting dust and experiencing other problems. Customer complaints soon began.

For the next five years, Apple tried to tweak the keyboard on updated models before ditching it altogether in 2020, when all of its laptops included a well-received redesigned keyboard that restored the scissor switches.

Jesus Jimenez contributed report.

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