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 enraged many users with frustration over typos.
The butterfly keyboard, a thin model aimed at greater precision, ended up not being as graceful as the nectar-seeking creature’s fluttering wings. Many customers complained that characters repeated when pressed or did not appear on their screens at all. Some said the devices had Keys that felt sticky and didn’t respond consistently.
The typos motivated a class action lawsuit filed in 2018 that led to the settlement filed Monday night after four years of litigation in the San Jose Division of US District Court in the Northern District of California. Apple said the agreement did not constitute an admission of guilt.
US District Judge Edward J. Davila has yet to approve the proposal, said Simon S. Grille, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
“Plaintiffs are pleased to submit for court approval their $50 million settlement with Apple, which would resolve many years of litigation over the MacBook butterfly keyboard,” said Mr. Grille and Steven A. Schwartz, a plaintiff, in a statement. “MacBook buyers nationwide are eligible.”
As a result of the agreement, Apple MacBook users who repaired a laptop with a defective butterfly keyboard from 2015 to 2019 could soon be able to make amends. Customers said the company was aware of the defect in these MacBooks; Apple offered customers with the defective keyboards free repairs in 2018 and then turned them off.
The company has proposed paying affected customers between $50 and $395.
The lawsuit represents buyers of about 15 million computers, the court documents say.
Apple “firmly disclaims liability,” the court documents said. 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 on the part of Apple,” the agreement reads.
Anyone in the United States who received repairs for keyboard issues on MacBooks, 2016-2019 MacBook Pros, and 2018-2019 MacBook Airs purchased between 2015-2017 is eligible to claim a share of the settlement payment. The company will consider customers who received a “top case” — which includes the battery, the touch-sensitive pointing device known as a trackpad, the speakers, and the keyboard — or a “keycap,” which refers to the covers for letters, as a replacement the keyboard.
“Any peer group member who went to Apple or an authorized service provider and received a ‘replacement top case’ or a ‘replacement keycap’ within four years of the date they purchased their class computer are eligible for a cash payment,” the court documents said.
Customers are divided into one of three groups based on the extent of repairs their devices have received at the time.
The first group includes people who received two or more top case replacement parts, the court documents said. You get a maximum of $395.
The second group—users who received a top case replacement that didn’t solve their problems—will get up to $125. The third group includes people who have replaced a keycap but not the entire top case. You are eligible for up to $50.
Many customers will be contacted by Apple, but claims can also be made with documentation proving repairs have been made.
The plaintiffs, representing the consumers, intend to seek damages of up to $5,000 each from the settlement money, the court documents said.
Apple introduced the problem keyboards in 2015 with an “all new MacBook”. The butterfly referred to a novel switching mechanism that expanded like wings beneath the keys, differing from the more common and thicker scissor-shaped switches. The keyboard was billed as “34 percent thinner” and “four times more stable” than the earlier scissor model. But it also seemed prone to catching dust and other problems. Customer complaints soon began.
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 featured a redesigned and well-received keyboard that restored the scissor switches.
Jesus Jimenez contributed reporting.
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