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Apple MacBook keyboard issue prompts lawsuit

Unresponsive keys? If compressed air doesn't work, try an attorney (that seems to be the plaintiffs' approach).

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Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Edward Moyer
2 min read
On its website, Apple talks up the butterfly mechanism.
Enlarge Image
On its website, Apple talks up the butterfly mechanism.

On its website, Apple talks up the butterfly mechanism.

Screenshot by CNET

If you're having problems with your MacBook keyboard, you're not alone. And now the issue may be heading to court.

A class-action complaint filed Friday says people who bought a MacBook or MacBook Pro equipped with Apple's "butterfly" keyboard "face a constant threat of nonresponsive keys and accompanying keyboard failure" and accuses Apple of failing to alert consumers about the issue.

Apple didn't respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit, filed in Northern California's US District Court, follows blog posts, tweets, support-forum comments, a Change.org petition, and even a satirical song and video about the allegedly janky keyboards.

Apple introduced its "butterfly" switch in 2015, on the 12-inch MacBook. The bit of hardware replaced the traditional "scissor" mechanism below each key and was meant to be more stable, responsive and comfortable (as Apple says on its site). For some users, though, things apparently haven't worked out that way.

People have complained about having to go a week or more without their computer while Apple replaced not just the unresponsive key, but a substantial part of their MacBook. And that was if their laptop was still under warranty. Others, less fortunate, have said the out-of-warranty fix can set you back $700.

Critics say Apple has been less-than-responsive about the problem. In June, the company's customer-support team posted a webpage outlining how to clean the keyboard using a can of compressed air (some folks say that doesn't always work, or that the problem recurs). In March, reports surfaced about Apple filing a patent for a crumb-resistant MacBook keyboard.

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The keyboard lawsuit, posted by Apple Insider, which reported on it earlier, calls out MacBooks from 2015 or later and MacBook Pros from 2016 or later.

"Hundreds of thousands of people bought MacBooks or MacBook Pros with the keyboards we allege are defective," a representative for Girard Gibbs Ltd., the legal firm representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "The product failures are widespread, and we look forward to pursuing justice for this group of consumers." The firm also has a webpage about the "butterfly" keyboard issue.

The suit seeks class-action status and, among other things, asks that Apple be compelled to "provide adequate disclosure of the defective nature of the MacBooks" and "return to Plaintiffs and Class members all costs attributable to remedying or replacing defective MacBook laptops , including but not limited to economic losses from the purchase of replacement laptops."

First published May 12, 12:41 p.m. PT
Update, May 15 at 5:50 p.m.: Adds statement from plaintiffs' attorneys.

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