Apple hit with class action suit over MacBook, MacBook Pro butterfly switch keyboard failu...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 12
A class action lawsuit filed in federal court on Friday takes Apple to task over an allegedly flawed keyboard design deployed in MacBook models from 2015, claiming the company knew about the defect at or before the product's launch.

MacBook Pro Keyboard


Lodged in the Northern District Court of California, the complaint levels multiple claims targeting MacBook models manufactured from 2015 and MacBook Pro models produced from 2016. Both laptops feature the company's butterfly keyboard mechanism, an ultra low-profile switch advertised as both more responsive and robust than traditional scissor-type components.

According to the filing, "thousands" of MacBook and MacBook Pro owners have experienced some type of failure with Apple's butterfly keyboard, thus rendering the machine useless. Specifically, the suit claims the design is such that small amounts of dust or debris impede normal switch behavior, causing keystrokes to go unregistered.

In extreme cases, the key fails, forcing owners to take their laptop in for service at a Genius Bar or authorized Apple repair facility, a trip that could cost hundreds of dollars if the machine is out of warranty.

One named plaintiff, Zixuan Rao, purchased a new 15-inch MacBook Pro in January and began to experience problems with the laptop's "B" key about a month later. After attempting to clean out the key on his own, Rao ultimately sought help from the Apple store in April. Representatives were unable to fix the issue and suggested repair under Apple's gratis one-year warranty.

Not able to wait the one week it would take to fix the machine, and unconvinced that a repair would permanently solve the issue, Rao declined the offer and purchased an external keyboard.

A second named plaintiff, Kyle Barbaro, went through a similar experience with his 2016 MacBook Pro. Unlike Rao, Barbaro opted to fix unresponsive space bar and caps lock keys through Apple's repair process, which worked for a few weeks before space bar failed a second time.

Barbaro returned to his local Apple store, but the Genius Bar representative was unable to solve the issue using conventional tools. As Barbaro's MacBook Pro was at this point out of warranty, he was told it would cost more than $700 to repair. He decided not to pursue the costly fix.

The suit also cites numerous complaints users posted online, including Apple's own Community Support forums.

Apple introduced the butterfly mechanism with its 12-inch MacBook in 2015. Touting the new hardware technology onstage, SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller characterized the keyboard as "much more precise, and accurate. In fact it is four times more stable than that scissor mechanism."

Butterfly mechanism switches made their way to Apple's professional laptop lineup with the redesigned MacBook Pro in 2016. A second-generation design, the keyboard was advertised as being more responsive and comfortable than the previous version.

Last month, an AppleInsider investigation into the issue, collecting data from Genius Bar locations and authorized third-party shops to find the 2016 MacBook Pro's keyboard failed roughly twice as often in its first year of use as 2014 and 2015 MacBook Pro models with scissor-type switches. Current 2017 model year versions fair a bit better, though the model has not been available for a full year.

Shortly after the report, a Change.org petition -- cited in today's class action -- called on Apple to recall all MacBooks with butterfly switch keyboards, saying the hardware design is inherently flawed. The petition garnered 17,000 signatures in just over a week.

Apple has in some ways acknowledged the problem, though not directly. For example, support documents detail a method of cleaning the keyboard with a can of compressed air, a technique that rarely works, according to those who have experienced serious complications.

Plaintiffs assert breach of express warranty, breach of covenant of good faith, breach of the implied warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss and Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Acts, violation of the California Unfair Competition Law, violation of California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and fraudulent concealment.

The suit seek damages, legal fees and demands Apple not only publicly disclose the keyboard design flaw, but pay to remedy or replace defective units. The latter demand includes reimbursement for the purchase of replacement laptops.

Vach
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 75
    This is warranted. It’s a bad keyboard durability wise.

    I hated the keyboard first but strangely enough as you keep typing on it, the keys respond better and better. So usability isn’t as bad as I thought it was.

    But it’s very delicate. And noisy. The space bar got stuck twice. Can’t have that on a laptop, especially a ‘Pro’. I got the 2nd generation butterfly keyboard. They better come with a 3rd...


    redgeminipasupadav03kiowavt
  • Reply 2 of 75
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,698member
    I tried one out recently at an Apple store and was pleasantly surprised; I found it nowhere near as horrible to type on as people make out. So from that perspective I don't have a problem with the new design.

    However, what I find completely unacceptable is that the keyboard is essentially unrepairable. If just one keys breaks, the whole thing is a write-off and you've got to pay for a new top case, including battery! It's ridiculous that people at Apple think that this is an acceptable design! With most moving parts now gone from laptops, the keyboard is probably the most likely thing to fail.
    edited May 12 mazda 3sbaconstangredgeminipaGeorgeBMactokyojimucornchipapplesnorangesAlex1Njony0
  • Reply 3 of 75
    mr. h said:
    I tried one out recently at an Apple store and was pleasantly surprised; I found it nowhere near as horrible to type on as people make out. So from that perspective I don't have a problem with the new design.

    However, what I find completely unacceptable is that the keyboard is essentially unrepairable. If just one keys breaks, the whole thing is a write-off and you've got to pay for a new top case, including battery! It's ridiculous that people at Apple think that this is an acceptable design! With most moving parts now gone from laptops, the keyboard is probably the most likely thing to fail.
    Topcase design like that has been around since the Retina MacBook Pro.

    If you noticed last year Apple had an issue with the supply of topcases for 2012 15" MacBook Pro retinas, they were offering free repairs or a new computer for awhile.

    Those computers had the same design of the topcase having the keyboard and battery all one part. 
  • Reply 4 of 75
    Ridiculous.  What determines whether something is law suit worthy?  If a company makes a product that isn't durable and treats its customers poorly, the market will "reward" that company with poor future sales.  That's how the system to works.  Unless someone gets hurt or the company reneges on warranty obligations, why should I court get involved?
    bkkcanuckglee217andrewj5790Alex1Njony0aegeanmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 5 of 75
    I hope so much that Apple releases new Pros with a a redesigned keyboard that's more fixable/doesn't break. I wanna buy a new one, I've saved the money, but I'm dreading the possibility that I might need to some day use a BT keyboard with my laptop while on the go.
    GeorgeBMacAlex1N
  • Reply 6 of 75
    bkkcanuckbkkcanuck Posts: 811member
    I have a MacBook 2015 and I am quite happy with the design overall.  I don't eat over the keyboard, and always wash my hands before using the computer (especially after eating or anything else).  Yes, the keyboard is likely a little overly sensitive, but the failure rates have yet to reach a level that would support it being called a design defect.  At what point of the spectrum - does the rough treatment (which sticky fingers are) damaging a computer becomes a "design defect"?  I don't see Apple advertising that they computer can be used with sticky fingers or eating over it :open_mouth:   So yes, the keyboard is a more fragile design - no it should not be considered a design defect - yes it is a design that should be improved upon...  As far as use, I can actually type faster on low profile keyboards (though not glass - I have to feel the keys, but I don't pound them into the ground)... all I need is to know that when a key is hit it will register... which some of the really old keyboards... would not necessarily do if off center.  

    redgeminipaAlex1Naegeanrandominternetperson
  • Reply 7 of 75
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 800member
    Any customer can file a lawsuit if he/she has purchased a product that's defective and the company is unresponsive.
    Then the courts will determine whether a lawsuit is frivolous or has merit. 
    redgeminipaAlex1Nkiowavt
  • Reply 8 of 75
    bkkcanuckbkkcanuck Posts: 811member
    bluefire1 said:
    Any customer can file a lawsuit if he/she has purchased a product that's defective and the company is unresponsive.
    Then the courts will determine whether a lawsuit is frivolous or has merit. 
    You are right - everyone is free to file a frivolous lawsuit in the US... and they often do.
    andrewj5790Alex1Njony0randominternetpersonchasm
  • Reply 9 of 75
    retrogustoretrogusto Posts: 653member
    Weird, my “B” key is the one causing the most trouble on my late-2016 MBP too. I wonder if some keys are more prone to failure than others. 
    Alex1Nmike eggleston
  • Reply 10 of 75
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,294member
    I’m an Apple fan, but this is a legitimate problem. I had taken my 2016 MacBook Pro to the Apple Store five times (an hour drive each way) for this issue and others. But the keyboard issue was the most disheartening and impeded my work. They said it was dirt in the keyboard but most of time it sits on my desk connected to a hub. It’s not like I’m messy with it or use the built in keyboard often. Key presses and spaces wouldn’t register. I’d have it repaired and shortly after a different key would fail. I also had other issues with the battery going bad and the TB3 ports being loose.

    They finally replaced it with a 2017 model and I haven’t had an issue since. I’m not sure if it’s a better design or if I’ve just lucked out.
    edited May 12 redgeminipaGeorgeBMacglee217cornchipAlex1N
  • Reply 11 of 75
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,294member
    bkkcanuck said:
    I have a MacBook 2015 and I am quite happy with the design overall.  I don't eat over the keyboard, and always wash my hands before using the computer (especially after eating or anything else).  Yes, the keyboard is likely a little overly sensitive, but the failure rates have yet to reach a level that would support it being called a design defect.  At what point of the spectrum - does the rough treatment (which sticky fingers are) damaging a computer becomes a "design defect"?  I don't see Apple advertising that they computer can be used with sticky fingers or eating over it :open_mouth:   So yes, the keyboard is a more fragile design - no it should not be considered a design defect - yes it is a design that should be improved upon...  As far as use, I can actually type faster on low profile keyboards (though not glass - I have to feel the keys, but I don't pound them into the ground)... all I need is to know that when a key is hit it will register... which some of the really old keyboards... would not necessarily do if off center.  

    I hardly ever used my 2016 MBP keyboard (it would sit in my clean office connected to a hub) and definitely don’t use it in a dirty situation or eat over the keyboard. I’m OCD about hand washing and my keyboard failed multiple times and in different ways even after repair/replacement. It’s definitely an issue. For instance in one case, I’d type an i character and it wouldn’t respond. The second time I’d press the key, it would type the character twice.

    I love the action of the keyboard and even purchased a new Apple keyboard with the low profile design. It has nothing to do with “hitting the key wrong”. It’s a bad design if it fails even once during clean room scenarios and light use.
    Alex1Nmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 75
    djsherlydjsherly Posts: 982member
    Ridiculous.  What determines whether something is law suit worthy?  If a company makes a product that isn't durable and treats its customers poorly, the market will "reward" that company with poor future sales.  That's how the system to works.  Unless someone gets hurt or the company reneges on warranty obligations, why should I court get involved?

    So a company takes $1500 off you and gives you a defective product which becomes a further $700 problem at some point down the track. So when you're $2200 in the hole and it happens a third time, sure the company will be rewarded in the future, but you have tipped $2200 into something that's now worthless, or now you're up to $2900 to get back in business. Tell that person to suck eggs in person, randominternetperson, and see how far that gets you.

    The keyboard is the fundamental input device for the laptop - if it's not capable of withstanding a speck of dust or some breadcrumbs then clearly it's not fit for purpose and therefore defective. It's a portable device and should be designed to handle being treated as one.

    Now - not saying that it is or isn't but anecdotally there is some significant issue with it and the company that took all the money off you is making you pay, again and again, to replace a defective component. I don't know how the Apple Genius can keep a straight face.
    GeorgeBMaccornchipbaconstangAlex1Napres587kiowavtmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 75
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 192member
    AND reportedly getting blamed for an EgyptAir crash in another lawsuit. 
  • Reply 14 of 75
    JanCZJanCZ Posts: 1member
    Even the keyboard is flawless to type on, I also have some problematic keys. H for exaplme. Nevertheless, I keep my laptop very clean, no eating or dust around it and it still failed. Even the cleaning process described on Apple site failed. 
    Colleagues are forced to use an external keyboard. Sadly. 
    Hope the lawsuit will bring some solution!
    kiowavt
  • Reply 15 of 75
    SydNSydN Posts: 3member
    Been an apple fan-tech support for more than 20 years and now I'm a pissed off user!!!
    Apple's obsession with making products thinner forces them to make bad design decisions and the butterfly keyboard with its integration with body/battery is the stupidest one ! These computers supposed to work way beyond their short period limited warranty and it's ridiculous they ask for one third or one quarter of the products price for a god damn keyboard failure! Never in my long term experience with Apple products I've seen such thing! More and more i feel they are moving in the wrong direction! I really hope I'm wrong cause it might one day force to leave the echo system and i hate to do it as i really don't like Android and Windows operating systems! The major thing that has glued me to Apple is their operating systems, not laptop thinness or other craps. I hope Apple gets slapped by this lawsuit, they need a wake up call!!!
    P.s: to be honest at first i thought it's another nonsense lawsuit against the money making company but after reading the whole thing and the $700 repair cost, it really pissed me off and changemy mind about it!!!
    baconstangapplesnorangesAlex1Nkiowavt
  • Reply 16 of 75
    ipilyaipilya Posts: 180member
    I have had 3 top cases replaced (for the keyboard)... yes... as a person been using Apple computers for 20 years.... this is the first time ever I have had such issues.... and yesterday i started to experience what I feel is a pre-cursor to yet another failure. I truly am doing nothing wrong... sigh...
    kiowavt
  • Reply 17 of 75
    henrybayhenrybay Posts: 39member
    The class action should also include the lack of adequate keyboard travel on the new MacBooks. Shallow keys are terrible for long writing sessions. They are not much better than writing on an iPad. 
  • Reply 18 of 75
    You're not going to win a court case like this based on anecdotal evidence. Every computer manufacturer is going to have to repair faulty keyboards on laptops, so you need to demonstrate that the number of repairs vs. units sold is unusually high for industry manufacturing standards. My guess is that Apple already knows that the answer to that question is "no". 
  • Reply 19 of 75
    henrybay said:
    The class action should also include the lack of adequate keyboard travel on the new MacBooks. Shallow keys are terrible for long writing sessions. They are not much better than writing on an iPad. 
    My own suspicion is that what people think is a lack of "travel" or "feel" is actually a lack of "wobble". The butterfly mechanism was specifically introduced to cut back on the wobble of the key when struck vs. the hinge design. It also seems unlikely when looking at prior keyboard designs that the keys are really traveling much further physically. There may be a difference, but you're probably talking about fractions of a millimeter.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 20 of 75
    henrybayhenrybay Posts: 39member
    henrybay said:
    The class action should also include the lack of adequate keyboard travel on the new MacBooks. Shallow keys are terrible for long writing sessions. They are not much better than writing on an iPad. 
    My own suspicion is that what people think is a lack of "travel" or "feel" is actually a lack of "wobble". The butterfly mechanism was specifically introduced to cut back on the wobble of the key when struck vs. the hinge design. It also seems unlikely when looking at prior keyboard designs that the keys are really traveling much further physically. There may be a difference, but you're probably talking about fractions of a millimeter.
    Nope, it’s definitely a travel issue rather than a wobble issue. The keys on my old 11inch MacBook Air travel nearly twice the distance of the MacBook Pro according to the calibrated calipers I use. Hence, the older machine is much more comfortable to type on - but the screen is inferior to the MacBook Pro. My ideal computer would combine the wonderful older keyboard with the new retina screen.  
    GeorgeBMacbaconstangAlex1Nkiowavt
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