Apple's MacBook butterfly switch keyboards target of second class action complaint

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2018
Customer complaints over Apple's butterfly keyboard have again turned into legal action, with a class action lawsuit filed in California court on Tuesday claiming the company sold, and continues to sell, a product known to be defective.

MacBook Pro


Filed in the Northern District Court of California, the complaint echoes many of the claims made in a first class action lawsuit regarding the same issue earlier this month.

In the immediate action, three named plaintiffs allege the butterfly mechanism introduced with the 2015 MacBook, and later applied to the MacBook Pro line in 2016, is prone to failure.

Though Apple advertises the ultra low-profile switch as being more responsive and robust than traditional scissor-type mechanisms, butterfly keyboards are easily defeated when dust or other particles builds up beneath the keys, the lawsuit claims. In some cases, the key switch completely fails, forcing owners to take their laptop in for repairs.

Due to its design, a single broken key necessitates the replacement of an afflicted MacBook's upper casing, which includes the keyboard and battery. For machines no longer covered by Apple's warranty, the repair can cost hundreds of dollars, and for those that are, the process can leave users without their computer for a week or more.

According to the suit, Remy Turner bought his 2016 MacBook Pro in April 2017 and shortly thereafter began to experience problems with a sticky space bar. He attempted to fix the issue using Apple's recommended method of spraying the area with a can of compressed air, but was unable to rectify the issue.

Turner ultimately returned the malfunctioning unit to Best Buy for a replacement, though the same problem manifested. He repeated the replacement process a second time with identical results.

A second named plaintiff, Christopher Martin, purchased a 15-inch MacBook Pro in December 2016 and used the device without incident until August 2017. It was around that time that the unit's space bar began to stick "roughly once every 1 to 2 weeks," a situation that was remedied by a hard press on the key.

The failures began to occur more frequently over time, but the air can cleaning process functioned as a temporary fix. In January 2017, however, Martin's space bar ceased to respond to cleaning techniques and became stuck in the depressed position every couple days, where it would remain for about a week.

As Martin's gratis warranty period is over, he is reluctant to fork out money for the high-priced repair. Instead, the plaintiff has resorted to shaking the laptop until the key becomes unstuck.

Finally, Joey Baruch purchased a 13-inch MacBook Pro in July 2017. Shortly after taking the unit home, he encountered issues with the "R", "T" and "Enter" keys. Like the suit's other plaintiffs, Baruch found spraying beneath the key with a can of compressed air alleviated the problem for a short time, but the issue became progressively worse.

Baruch took his laptop in for warranty repairs in March 2018. Apple replaced the keyboard, but the problem reoccured on the new unit, this time extending to the space bar.

Aside from plaintiff testimonials, the suit cites numerous online forum posts, blog accounts and reports detailing consumer complaints with Apple's butterfly key mechanism. Beyond sticking keys, users describe troubles relating to the design including broken key caps, among other flaws.

Apple introduced the butterfly mechanism in 2015 with the debut of the 12-inch MacBook. At the time, SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller touted the keyboard as "much more precise, and accurate. In fact it is four times more stable than that scissor mechanism." Those claims are echoed in Apple's marketing for current-generation MacBook and MacBook Pro models, the latter of which feature a second-generation butterfly mechanism that offers "four times more key stability than a traditional scissor mechanism."

AppleInsider investigated the issue last month, and after collecting data from Genius Bar locations and authorized third-party shops found 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.

Within a week of the report's publication, a Change.org petition called on Apple to recall all MacBooks with butterfly switch keyboards. The petition, which is cited in today's suit, has garnered nearly 27,000 signatures in under three weeks.

Though Apple has not acknowledged a widespread problem, it has recognized customer complaints, as evidenced by a support document detailing the aforementioned method of cleaning butterfly keyboards with a can of compressed air.

Plaintiffs assert breach of express warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss and Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Acts, violation of the California Unfair Competition Law and violation of California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act. The suit seeks class certification, restitution, damages and legal fees.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    This won't cost Apple that much. They calculate these things, and free warranty repairs would probably have cost a lot more than what they can settle this case for.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    As others must have said in the 200 comments of the previous article on the subject, Apple has seriously to reconsider its thinness pursuit. Having to shell out 700$ and waste half a several K$ laptop to repair a keyboard key is pure non sense. Apple's balance between aesthetics and maintainability seems completely out of the way in this case, quite badly...
    GeorgeBMacwilliamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamelijahgjSnivelykiowavt
  • Reply 3 of 27
    lewchenkolewchenko Posts: 107member
    I tried a MacBook Pro at the weekend in the store but the keyboard was absolutely terrible. Hardly any travel at all. Almost like typing on an iPad.  

    My old MacBook Pro is now 5 years old but there is no way I'm buying a new one with these keyboards. My old machine is superior in that regard. 

    As the primary interface point with the machine I can't help but think Apple have seriously failed here. Especially given the price of these things. 

    I know people say that I will get used to it.. but why should I ? OSX is value adding but it's not strong enough to keep me in the Apple camp.

    I will wait till June 4th and see what is released but it's looking likely I'm going to have to consider my replacement laptop might not be an apple if the keyboard is still bad. 
    GeorgeBMacmuthuk_vanalingamaknabihenrybaykiowavt
  • Reply 4 of 27
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 289member
    Aside from personal preference regarding key travel, if a hair falls from your head, gets under a key and prevents proper use of the keyboard, your keyboard has a faulty design. If a speck of dust can do the same, your keyboard has a faulty design. If your keyboard has a faulty design, you need to replace it free of charge if it breaks during normal use in normal environments. Sucks for Apple if they designed it to be in one piece. Come on, this must have been tested.
    GeorgeBMacwilliamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamkiowavt
  • Reply 5 of 27
    chippedchipped Posts: 11member
    I’ve had this MacBook since launch day and the keyboard does get debris stuck under the keys easily but it hasn’t failed on me.

    I’ve had to spray compressed air under some keys two times only.

    However I don’t like the key travel, it’s really shallow. This needs to be addressed.

    I don’t know how they can fix the issue with debris screwing the keys up.

    A good outcome for me would be if Apple setup up a replacement program for the keyboard affected models and an updated problem free keyboard in future models.

    It would be could if existing models could be retrofitted with a V2 keyboard if possible.

    I think the issue is blown out of proportion however it is a real issue and needs to be addressed by Apple.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 6 of 27
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,234member
    I actually like the keyboard in terms of feel. Bbut mmany kkeys ddouble ttap aand iits rreally aanoying
    kiowavt
  • Reply 7 of 27
    MKMcMKMc Posts: 14member
    Judging by the few replies on this post, maybe the keyboard "issue" isn't as big as it's being made out to be - I could be wrong. I've had a MBP 13" 2016 model for 18 months now. It's well travelled and used and definitely been exposed to random debris like hairs, crumbs and even the odd spray of coffee. So far it works fine. Of course if it stopped working under "normal" conditions, I too would be expecting Apple to repair it free-of-charge. They should absolutely agree to doing this for legitimate cases. As for the keyboard usability: for key travel - I'm a very fast touch typer and it doesn't bug me at all. And some people are bugged by the "clacky" sound of the keys - I'm not troubled by that - but I wouldn't mind Apple damping the "clack" a bit. Other people seem to find it annoying when I am typing in a quiet place.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    tommy0gunstommy0guns Posts: 119member
    My iMac has the wireless keyboard version. My space bar got gummed up. I attempted to gently lift off the key to clean underneath and a tiny clip broke and made it impossible to put the key back. Brought it the Apple Store and he gave me a brand new one, no questions asked.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,302member
    Lenovo fixed this problem 10 years ago by washing the dust out from under the keys...


    kiowavt
  • Reply 10 of 27
    I assume all 27,000 of those petition signatures are confirmed Apple customers with actual faulty keyboards?
  • Reply 11 of 27
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member
    As others must have said in the 200 comments of the previous article on the subject, Apple has seriously to reconsider its thinness pursuit. Having to shell out 700$ and waste half a several K$ laptop to repair a keyboard key is pure non sense. Apple's balance between aesthetics and maintainability seems completely out of the way in this case, quite badly...
    There are laptops thinner than the rMBP that don’t have these issues. The problem isn’t thinness.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    lewchenko said:
    I tried a MacBook Pro at the weekend in the store but the keyboard was absolutely terrible. Hardly any travel at all. Almost like typing on an iPad.  

    My old MacBook Pro is now 5 years old but there is no way I'm buying a new one with these keyboards. My old machine is superior in that regard. 

    As the primary interface point with the machine I can't help but think Apple have seriously failed here. Especially given the price of these things. 

    I know people say that I will get used to it.. but why should I ? OSX is value adding but it's not strong enough to keep me in the Apple camp.

    I will wait till June 4th and see what is released but it's looking likely I'm going to have to consider my replacement laptop might not be an apple if the keyboard is still bad. 
    Typing on my new MacBook Pro right now.  I love the key board. 


    p.s. it's macOS not OSX these days. ☺️
    edited May 2018
  • Reply 13 of 27
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member

    I assume all 27,000 of those petition signatures are confirmed Apple customers with actual faulty keyboards?
     If I am not mistaken Apple did make some changes to the 2017 design so I assume these claims are against the earlier models right?  If so (and I could be wrong) then so many here trashing the current design based on articles about the lawsuits is misleading.  

    I must be a fast adapter!  As I said in the above post, I just got as new MacBook Pro with Touch bar (last night to be specific) so the typing experience is totally new to me and I love it.  Going back to the keyboard on my nMacPro now seems weird and that is only after a few hours on the new one, it's that good to use. I also already miss the Touch Bar on the Mac Pro!  I hope Apple start selling external keyboards for Mac Pros with Touch Bar.

     I have many keyboards going back to a Mac Plus, boy does that one feel weird!  lol.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 27
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,297member

    nunzy said:
    This won't cost Apple that much. They calculate these things, and free warranty repairs would probably have cost a lot more than what they can settle this case for.
    How about they make keyboards that aren’t faulty? Isn’t a reason people pay a premium for Apple products because their build quality is the best?
    williamlondonnunzykiowavtGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 27
    ipilyaipilya Posts: 195member
    chipped said:
    It would be could if existing models could be retrofitted with a V2 keyboard if possible.

    I think the issue is blown out of proportion however it is a real issue and needs to be addressed by Apple.
    (note: there are currently 2 versions of the butterfly keyboard/top-case for the MacBook Pro)
    Being someone who has had 3 top-case replacements... i do not think its overblown. I have been using Macs for nearly 20 years... and this is the first time that I have such a consistent and incredible issue. Also.... the v2 keyboard (top case) does not fit the v1 keyboard (top case) of on the MacBook Pro and both have the same problem. It is honestly not practical for Apple to design a v3 of the keyboard to fit the v2 and v1 top-cases.
    edited May 2018 williamlondonkiowavt
  • Reply 16 of 27
    rogifan_new said:  There are laptops thinner than the rMBP that don’t have these issues. The problem isn’t thinness.
    I keep hearing people make that claim, but where's the hard data? How many people have actually had the keyboard "fail" vs. just having a stuck key that can be repaired? Do other manufacturers provide any data on how reliable their keyboards are? All I know is that Apple has proven many times in the past that they have extensive testing for their hardware designs. Remember the iPhone 6 that everyone was convinced was "too bendable"? Turned out that it was well within industry standards for that. 
  • Reply 17 of 27
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,546member
    Those signing petition may not all be MBP users with butterfly keyboard. Some jump on running train for whatever reason. Not to say that individual's butterfly MBP keyboard users bad experience is ignored but there should be comparison with rest of the industry's similar laptops keyboard issues. That shows the butterfly keyboard issues less or more than perceived.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,740member
    Late 2017 MBP owner.  Keyboard is a non-issue, noise is a non-issue, usability is a non-issue.

    Stop complaining if you haven’t used one, or used one for only 1 minute at a store.  Apple gives you 14 days to try it.  Why aren’t we seeing news of people returning them in droves after purchase for this?

    I’m a neat freak and always keep my keyboard(s) clean.  That being said if these new keyboards do in fact fail from a speck of dust, that’s an issue that should be addressed.

    williamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,175member
    wood1208 said:
    Those signing petition may not all be MBP users with butterfly keyboard. Some jump on running train for whatever reason. Not to say that individual's butterfly MBP keyboard users bad experience is ignored but there should be comparison with rest of the industry's similar laptops keyboard issues. That shows the butterfly keyboard issues less or more than perceived.
    I suspect some are also part of this "me too" crowd. It happens with everything. I'd like to see their proof for this case and it needs to be more than just I had to take it to the Apple Store to get it fixed too so this keyboard design is defective. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,175member


    nunzy said:
    This won't cost Apple that much. They calculate these things, and free warranty repairs would probably have cost a lot more than what they can settle this case for.
    How about they make keyboards that aren’t faulty? Isn’t a reason people pay a premium for Apple products because their build quality is the best?
    Not necessarily...yes, that may be part of it, but I doubt its the primary reason people buy Apple products. We don't really have any significant proof that there's a fault here. If Apple has sold 15 Million MacBook Pros with this new design and only say 25,000 have had repairs for keyboard issues I hardly think that's considered a major issue over the period of 3 or so years. If my math is correct, thats less than 2% failure rate and that doesn't even take into effect of user related issues. If this is the case, its just more of there's a new Apple product out and everyone has to find a major fault in it and create a huge news story out of it, sometimes even a lawsuit. Seems to happen with every new Apple product released and usually its nothing of importance in the end. 
    edited May 2018
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