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Pay up, Apple! MacBook owners may get paid for butterfly keyboard debacle

MacBook Pro 16-inch back
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Cha-ching! MacBook Air and MacBook Pro owners may receive financial compensation as a result of Apple's butterfly-keyboard debacle. A U.S. District Judge certified a class-action lawsuit seeking to penalize the Cupertino-based tech giant for implementing failure-prone keyboards on its MacBooks in recent years.

The growing class-action lawsuit is led by 11 Apple customers across seven states: California, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Florida, Washington, New Jersey and Michigan. The group of plaintiffs is hoping to inflict "economic injury" upon Apple.

For those unfamiliar with Apple's butterfly-keyboard disaster, in 2015, the Cupertino-based tech giant introduced the new "butterfly keyboard" on the 12-inch MacBook (yes, just "MacBook" with no “Air” or “Pro” modifier). It's a moment in Apple history that I'm sure the MacBook maker wishes it could scrub.

MacBook Pro

16-inch Apple MacBook Pro (2019) (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Since Apple kicked off the butterfly-keyboard era, reports about the keyboard being a defective, failure-prone hunk of junk started flooding in. Despite this, Apple kept defending its butterfly keyboards for several years until it finally tucked its tail between its legs and admitted defeat. Apple began phasing out the flawed keyboard in 2019 with the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

As such, a group of plaintiffs slapped Apple with a lawsuit on behalf of "all persons who purchased, other than for resale, within California, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, or Michigan, an Apple MacBook from any of the model years 2015-2017."

Other laptops that are in the hot seat include MacBook Pro models between 2016 and 2019 (except the 16-inch MacBook Pro that was released in November 2019) and MacBook Air models between 2018 and 2019. It's also worth noting that Apple has acknowledged its butterfly-keyboard issues and launched a Keyboard Service Program to replace keyboards from eligible laptops free of charge.

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

16-inch Apple MacBook Pro (2019) (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Despite Apple's objections and protests, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila for the Northern District of California certified the class-action suit. If you don't live in any of the seven states listed in the suit, don't worry. Girard Sharp, the firm behind the lawsuit, plans to expand its class action to more consumers across all 50 states by conducting an online survey, which you can complete here.

The butterfly-keyboard debacle isn't the only class-action thorn in Apple's side. You may recall that the Cupertino-based tech giant also had to pay out $500 million to customers ($25 per device) after throttling iPhone batteries, impelling customers to upgrade their devices. 

If the plaintiffs are successful with this butterfly-keyboard lawsuit, affected MacBook customers will likely receive direct payments and/or refunds for keyboard repairs.

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!