Judge Rules Apple Must Answer for Failing to Disclose MacBook Keyboard Problems

Gavel On MacBook Keyboard Credit: zhu difeng / Shutterstock
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Apple has been facing serious problems with its butterfly keyboards on its recent MacBook Pro models, and although the company has finally acknowledged and apologized for the issues, and this week offered to dramatically step-up repair efforts for those affected, it appears that Apple is still going to have to face the ire of its customers in court.

A California federal judge has ruled that a class-action lawsuit filed against Apple last year over the keyboard problems will be allowed to proceed, albeit in a significantly trimmed down fashion.

The original class action lawsuit accused Apple of knowingly releasing defective keyboards, claiming that “Apple knew that the MacBook is defective at or before the time it began selling the affected models to the public,” yet the company “equipped future model MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops with the butterfly keyboard, and continued selling these laptops to consumers at premium prices.” The suit also accused Apple of fraudulent concealment, and violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act,

Apple of course filed a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit entirely, and according to Law360, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila agreed with at least one point of Apple’s argument against the case: specifically that Apple’s warranty only requires the company to fix “defects in materials and workmanship,” which would not extend to an actual design defect in the keyboard. In short, the judge sided with Apple in ruling that a warranty only covers flaws in manufacturing and not flaws in design.

As a result, the judge threw out claims of breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, suggesting that Apple has not violated any of acts concerning warranties, and implying that Apple is in fact under no obligation to offer free warranty repairs to MacBooks affected by the keyboard problem.

Apple also managed to escape claims that it had violated the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act and other related laws due to the fact that the company was voluntarily offering free repairs under its Keyboard Service Program, rendering the plaintiff’s claims in those areas moot.

However, while Apple may be off the hook for how it handled MacBooks once they were in customers’ hands, the tech giant is still going to have to face the music for failing to disclose the existence of the problem in the first place. Judge Davila refused to dismiss the claims that Apple had committed fraud by omission, rejecting Apple’s argument that buyers did not rely on the alleged omissions and that it did not have ad duty to make the keyboard defects known.

A reasonable consumer would deem these alleged facts to be important when choosing to purchase a laptop computer.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila, in a ruling on Rao et al v. Apple Inc.

In his ruling, Judge Davila said that buyers’ have provided enough information to show that Apple knew about the alleged defect, and that disclosure of these problems by Apple would be likely to affect most customers’ decisions to purchase a laptop computer.

Meanwhile, the class action suit continues to gain new support, with counsel for the plaintiffs noted that they are still hearing from MacBook buyers who have experienced keyboard failures and have been dissatisfied with Apple’s response to the problem.

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