Apple settles class action lawsuit over MacBook butterfly keyboard

Keyboard keys take some getting used to.

Todd Hazelton | CNBC

Apple on Monday night agreed to a $50 million class action lawsuit settlement over the company’s “butterfly keyboard” that was installed on MacBook laptops between 2015 and 2019.

The settlement will likely result in payments to customers who bought a MacBook in seven US states, including California, New York and Florida, who had their keyboard or keycaps replaced at an Apple store or an authorized repair center. settlement documents reviewed by CNBC.

The payouts can range from $300 to $395 for people who replace multiple keyboards, up to $125 for people who replace one keyboard, and up to $50 for people who replace one keyboard, lawyers said in the agreement.

The settlement brings an infamous era in Apple product design closer. Apple admitted no wrongdoing or guilt in the settlement.

Apple originally introduced the butterfly keyboard as an innovation that could allow its laptops to become even thinner. But customers said that Apple’s butterfly keyboards were prone to glitches and could be damaged by a speck of dust, causing the keyboard to unexpectedly repeat letters or not register keystrokes at all.

Butterfly keyboards were unpopular and their flaws inspired songs and long complaints. One influential Apple blogger called the keyboard worst product “in the history of Apple”. Apple apologized for the problems in a corporate statement and implemented a service program for free replacement of keyboards from 2019.

Eligible laptops include MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros sold between 2015 and 2019. The cost to repair an out-of-warranty Butterfly keyboard during this period can be up to $475.

Apple has phased out butterfly keyboards starting in 2019, returning to a more traditional “scissor switch” design. Since then, Apple has reported growth in its Mac business of 11% in 2020 and 23% in fiscal 2021, hitting $35 billion in sales.

However, the rise in Apple’s Mac business could also be fueled by the pandemic, which boosted PC sales as people worked from home, as well as the company’s introduction of its own M-series chips that improve battery life and responsiveness.

The settlement agreement must be approved by the judge.