A proposed class action lawsuit alleges the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops introduced by Apple in 2016 come equipped with defective screens that, over time, can display a “stage lighting” effect at the bottom before failing completely.
Apple “is aware, and has been aware” of the apparent defect since the affected MacBooks were released yet has concealed the problem from consumers while continuing to sell the computers, the lawsuit alleges.
The best MacBook display ever?
According to the 21-page complaint out of California, the “main selling point” of Apple’s updated MacBook Pro laptops was their display, which the Silicon Valley giant touted as its “brightest and most colorful Retina display yet” and “the best Mac display ever.” In order to make the MacBook models thinner and sleeker, Apple utilized thin, flexible ribbon cables to connect the display screen to the device’s display controller board. Per the suit, the ribbon cables are wrapped around a MacBook’s display controller board and secured by two spring-loaded covers.
The case claims that while the ribbon cables function properly at first, their length and placement causes them to rub against the control board every time a MacBook is opened or closed. Over time, the consistent rubbing causes premature wear and tear (red arrow), which can lead to a “stage lighting” effect—alternating patches of light and darkness—at the bottom of affected displays, the lawsuit says.
As the wear and tear progresses, the Retina display’s backlighting system can fail completely when the computer is opened beyond 40 degrees, rendering the laptop “essentially useless,” the complaint alleges. Adding to consumers’ woes, the defect typically manifests outside of Apple’s one-year limited warranty for the MacBook Pro, causing users to pay out of pocket for repair, according to the suit.
Further, those looking to repair the display cables, which cost only a few dollars each, may run into trouble given Apple designed the cables as part of the Retina display itself, the lawsuit says.
“Consequently, the cables cannot be individually replaced,” the suit reads. “Instead, the entire display unit needs to be replaced when the display cables tear.”
Replacing a MacBook Pro’s entire Retina display can cost between $600 and $850, according to the complaint. Moreover, those with AppleCare plans “fare only slightly better” given that they’ll still need to pay $99 to $299 to fix a faulty display, the case continues.
Apple’s alleged knowledge of the issue
As the lawsuit tells it, Apple began to receive complaints about the Retina display in 2016 MacBook Pro models upon their release. As more computers were sold and used, more complaints rolled in, the lawsuit says, yet Apple continued to promote its Retina display without disclosing the cable display issue to buyers.
In all, it took Apple roughly two years to remedy the display problem, according to the suit. In July 2018, Apple released a new MacBook Pro model with display cables two millimeters longer than those found in the previous model, which the case says gave the cables more room to wrap around the display board and would prevent rubbing when a device was opened and closed.
In May 2019, Apple launched a program through which it agreed to replace the cables and/or displays for 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 models experiencing the stage lighting defect or total display failure and refund those who paid out of pocket to fix the problem. The lawsuit notes, however, that both 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros have evidenced the Retina display issue. Plus, Apple’s program reportedly does not cover 13-inch MacBook Pros sold after 2016.
To date, Apple “continues to deny there was ever a defect in its display cables,” the lawsuit says. The plaintiff, a 15-inch MacBook Pro owner, claims he was told in March 2020 by an authorized Apple service provider that AppleCare did not cover repairs to his display and that replacement would cost him $850. The consumer alleges that as of the lawsuit’s filing, he has been unable to repair his MacBook Pro due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Had Plaintiff known the display cable defect, he would not have purchased his MacBook or would have paid significantly less for it,” the complaint reads.
Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The lawsuit looks to cover all U.S. consumers who bought a 2016-year model or later MacBook Pro.
How can I be a part of the lawsuit?
There’s generally nothing you need to do to be part of a class action lawsuit. When and if a case that involves you is settled, you will likely receive notice via email or regular mail. That being said, many cases that are filed will hit roadblocks along the way and could potentially end up dismissed.
For now, those who may have bought a MacBook Pro 2016 with a faulty Retina display should sit tight and check back with this page for updates.
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