Apple's much-maligned butterfly keyboard design has bugged customers since its release, and now its landed the company in court. Per AppleInsider, the company was hit with a class action lawsuit filed in US federal court Friday that alleges Apple knew of defects in the keyboard before the product launched.
The case, lodged in the Northern District Court of California, targets a number of MacBook Pro models manufactured after 2015 that feature the butterfly keyboard, which Apple has advertised as being "refined for greater comfort and responsiveness." The filing alleges that "thousands" of owners of the devices have experienced some kind of failure as a result of the design.
Apple first introduced the butterfly keyboard in 2015 with the release of its remodelled 11.8-inch MacBook laptop and ported the design to the MacBook Pro in 2016. While the keyboard itself doesn't look all that much different, underneath the keys is the so-called butterfly mechanism that is supposed to make for a smoother and more responsive keystroke than the standard scissor design.
It's also much thinner, allowing the company to slim down the laptop frame or make room for other components. Apple claims the keyboard is "four times more stable" despite its space-saving build.
In practice, it has been anything but. Users have regularly complained about a variety of issues related to the new keyboard since its release. It's not uncommon for the butterfly mechanism to get stuck, making a key unusable. Users have also reported hearing high-pitched sounds when pressing keys.
The issues have been widespread enough that more than 18,000 people signed a Change.org petition demanding a recall of MacBooks with the butterfly keyboard. All of those longstanding issues appear to have cumulated into the class action lawsuit now facing Apple.
The case has two plaintiffs who claim to have purchased MacBooks plagued with problems relating to the butterfly design. One plaintiff, Zixuan Rao, purchased a 38cm MacBook Pro earlier this year only to have one of the keys start to malfunction. He took the laptop to an Apple store in April, where representatives were unable to fix the problem. The store offered to ship the laptop to its Repair Center, Rao declined because the fix would take a week.
A second plaintiff in the case, Kyle Barbaro, suffered through a similar situation with his 2016 MacBook Pro when his space bar and caps lock keys were rendered useless. Apple repaired the issued, but the space bar failed again. The device was out of warranty, so Apple quoted him a price of more than $US700 ($928) to perform the repair.
The lawsuit claims Apple is in breach of both express and implied warranty, as well as in violation of the Magnuson-Moss and Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Acts, California Unfair Competition Law, and California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act. It also accuses Apple of fraudulent concealment for allegedly covering up the fact it knew the keyboards suffered from such issues.
The plaintiffs in the case are seeking damages and legal fees and are demanding Apple publicly acknowledge the design issues with its butterfly keyboard. They are also asking for Apple to pay to fix or replace faulty units, including offering reimbursement for replacement laptops.
Owners of MacBook Pros with the butterfly keyboard manufactured after 2015 can join the class action. It probably won't produce much of a return for consumers, as class action suits rarely do, but it's worth a shot.