Lawsuit against Apple MacBook’s butterfly keyboard gets class action status
The suit alleges that Apple knew that its thinner keyboard was fragile and rotten.
In a development that comes as at least some assurance to some angry Apple MacBook owners, a judge has certified a class action suit against Apple for the fragile butterfly keyboard design.
This lawsuit covers anyone who has bought an Apple MacBook with the butterfly keyboard in seven states - California, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington and Michigan and includes anyone who bought a MacBook model between 2015 and 2017, a MacBook Pro between 2016 and 2019 or a MacBook Air between 2018 and 2019.
The judge in question, Judge Edward Davila, has certified the case with seven subclasses on March 8 in California, The Verge reports, but the order was sealed until last week. This raises the stakes for a suit that was first filed in 2018, three years after Apple added the butterfly keyboard to its laptops that have been criticised globally.
The much-disliked butterfly keyboard was slimmer than Apple's previous keyboards that used industry-standard scissor switches. MacBook owners who bought the new devices with the slim keyboard found that this revamped keyboard failed the moment dust particles, no matter how tiny, would accumulate around the switches.
This lead to keys feeling “sticky” and either failed to register keypresses or registered multiple keypresses with a single hit. Apple tweaked its butterfly keyboard many times but as complaints continued they abandoned it altogether in 2020.
The lawsuit claims that Apple knew for years that the butterfly keys were defective and that incremental changes would not fix the core problem. The suit cites internal communications inside Apple, including an executive who wrote that “no matter how much lipstick you try to put on this pig (the butterfly keyboard)... it's still ugly”.
The plaintiffs have accused apple of violating several laws across the seven states the suit covers including California's Unfair Competition Law, the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. While the suit is not asking for a nationwide certification at this time, the law firm behind the suit has invited any US buyer of an affected MacBook to complete a survey.
Apple has argued against a class action certification, stating that one consolidated suit shouldn't cover multiple tweaks to the butterfly keyboard.
However, the plaintiffs have successfully argued that all butterfly keyboards may have the same fundamental problems thanks to their shallow design and the narrow gaps between keys.
“None of the design differences that Apple points to changed the tight spaces between the keys, nor the low-travel aspect of the design,” the order reads. Apple will have to argue that these basic features didn't actually make the design unreliable and that the company did not spend years knowingly making these defective keyboards.