Apple agrees to settle class-action suit over problematic 'butterfly' keyboards

The company has agreed to pay a total of $50 million to consumers who purchased MacBooks with the flawed devices, but it's not admitting there was anything wrong with them.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer
MacBook Pro 2018, frontal view, dark background

MacBook Pro 2018

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Apple has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over its problematic "butterfly" mechanism keyboard. Under the terms of the settlement, Apple will pay a total of $50 million to a group of customers who purchased MacBooks with the flawed keyboards. It does not, however, have to admit to any wrongdoing; the company denies all of the allegations in the suit and denies that any MacBooks are defective. 

As Reuters first reported, the settlement was filed Monday night in federal court in San Jose, California, and it requires a judge's approval. 

It specifically covers customers who bought MacBook, MacBook Air, and most MacBook Pro models between 2015 and 2019 in seven US states: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.

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Apple introduced the "butterfly" keyboard design with less key travel in 2015, as part of its broader strategy to produce thinner keyboards and slim down its laptops. However, its keys were easily jammed by specks of dust or crumbs. Apple tried implementing various fixes, such as a silicon layer under the keys, but nothing fully resolved the issues.

Despite widespread complaints, Apple never publicly acknowledged the pain it caused users until the Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern posted a blistering assessment of the MacBook Pro's keyboard. Even then, Apple only conceded that a "small number of users" were having this issue with its third attempt at its butterfly keyboard. Apple decided to give up on the design in 2019. 

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case expect relatively modest payouts for affected consumers. Given typical participation rates in class action settlements, they anticipate $300 payments to consumers who had to obtain multiple keyboard replacements, payments of up to $125 to customers who had to obtain a single keyboard replacement, and payments of up to $50 to customers who obtained key cap replacements only.

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