Apple agrees to $50 million settlement over butterfly keyboard complaints

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

The butterfly keyboard, a thin model that was intended to bring more precision, proved less graceful than the beating of the wings of the creature in search of nectar. Many customers have complained that characters were repeated when pressed or didn’t appear on their screens at all. Some said the devices had keys that felt sticky and didn’t respond consistently.

The typing collapses 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 U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Apple said the deal did not represent an admission that it was at fault.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila has yet to approve the proposal, said Simon S. Grille, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

“The 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,” said Mr. Grille and Steven A. Schwartz, a plaintiff. , in a press release. “MacBook buyers across the country are eligible to participate.”

As a result of the deal, Apple could soon make amends to MacBook users who got repairs on a laptop with a faulty butterfly keyboard from 2015 to 2019. Customers said the company was aware of the defect on those MacBooks; Apple offered free repairs to customers with the faulty keyboards in 2018, then phased them out.

The company has offered to pay amounts ranging from $50 to $395 to customers who have been affected.

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

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

“The proposed settlement to resolve this matter is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing of any kind on the part of Apple,” the agreement states.

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

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

Customers will be categorized into one of three groups, based on the extent of repairs their devices received at the 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 topcase replacement that did not resolve their issues – will receive up to $125. The third group includes people who have replaced a keycap but not the entire topcase. They will be eligible for up to $50.

Many customers will be contacted by Apple, but people can also submit claims with documentation proving repairs were made.

Plaintiffs representing consumers intend to seek compensation of up to $5,000 each from the settlement money, according to court documents.

Apple introduced struggling keyboards with an “all-new MacBook” in 2015. The butterfly referred to a new switch mechanism that extended like wings under the keys, unlike the more common, thicker-shaped switches. of scissors. The keyboard was touted as “34% thinner” and “four times more stable” than the previous scissor model. But it also seemed prone to catching dust and running into other issues. Soon the customer complaints started.

Over the next five years, Apple attempted to modify the keyboard in updated models before abandoning it entirely by 2020, when all of its laptops included a redesigned and well-received keyboard that restored scissor switches. .

Jesus Jiménez contributed report.

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