Apple Settles $50m Butterfly Keyboard Lawsuit

Faulty MacBook butterfly keyboards over a four year period ends up costing Apple $50 million, as it reaches lawsuit settlement

Apple has reached a settlement after a lawsuit alleged it knew about flaws with the butterfly keyboard switches built into a number of MacBook models.

The so called butterfly keyboard were included in MacBooks between 2015 to 2019, but soon after it was introduced users began complaining of problems with the keyboards.

Problems were caused as dirt or dust could cause the butterfly mechanism beneath the keys to stop working properly. Apple tried a number of fixes but never solved the core problems, and the iPad maker in 2019 admitted there was a issue in an update to its keyboard repair program.

MacBook Pro

Lawsuit settlement

Now this week Reuters reported that Apple agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by customers who claimed it knew and concealed that the “butterfly” keyboards on its MacBook laptop computers were prone to failure.

It reported that the proposed preliminary settlement was filed late Monday night in the federal court in San Jose, California, and requires a judge’s approval.

Customers had claimed that MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro keyboards suffered from sticky and unresponsive keys, and that tiny amounts of dust or debris could make it difficult to type.

The plaintiffs also alleged Apple’s service program was inadequate because Apple often provided replacement keyboards with the same problems.

The settlement covers customers who bought MacBook, MacBook Air and most MacBook Pro models between 2015 and 2019 in seven U.S. states: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

Reuters reported that Apple denied any wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

It seems that lawyers for the customers expect maximum payouts of $395 to people who replaced multiple keyboards, $125 to people who replaced one keyboard, and $50 to people who replaced key caps.

Customers also remain eligible for four years of free keyboard repairs following their purchases.

Past hardware rows

Apple has run into problems with its hardware before that it has had to offer repairs for.

In 2010 for example Apple was sued over the so called ‘death grip’ issue with the iPhone 4, which when a user held the phone in particular way, impacted the device’s antenna.

Essentially if held in a certain way, it dampened reception whenever the device’s exterior antenna rim was touched.

Another problem came with the so called battery gate issue in December 2017, when it was discovered that Apple had deliberately slowed down older iPhones, which it claimed at the time would help avoid unexpected handset shutdowns.

The issue was discovered when an iPhone user shared performance tests on Reddit that revealed that a iPhone 6S had slowed down considerably as it had aged.

However the handset suddenly sped up again after the battery was replaced, pointing to a deliberate policy by Apple to slow older iPhones.

In the ensuing outrage, Apple apologised over the matter and lowered the price for replacement batteries to $29 from $79, but it denied accusations it was a clumsy attempt to force customers to upgrade to new handsets.

In December 2020 Apple faced fresh lawsuits in Belgium, Spain, Italy and Portugal from advocacy group Euroconsumers over this matter.

In June this year a consumer rights campaigner, launched a £750 million lawsuit against Apple in the UK for misleading iPhone users over the slowdown for older handsets.