Apple’s top-of-the-line M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro laptops come with screens that are “extraordinarily fragile” and can crack; black out; develop magenta, purple and blue lines and squares; and stop working altogether, a proposed class action alleges.
The 28-page lawsuit alleges thousands of Apple users worldwide have run up against issues with the “defective” M1 MacBook screens and have been forced to pay anywhere from $600 to $850 out of pocket to obtain repairs or secure replacements without Apple’s help. Some users who’ve replaced or repaired their M1 MacBook displays have quickly experienced the problem again, the case says, claiming Apple has replaced some M1 MacBooks with laptops suffering from the same defect.
Apple is alleged to have known of the M1 MacBook screen problem from internal testing and user complaints yet failed to publicly recognize the defect until August 27, 2021, according to the suit. At that time, Apple relayed to customers that "[t]o enable the thin design of Mac notebook computers, the clearance between the display (screen) and the top case is engineered to tight tolerances" and cautioned users to handle the displays with care, the lawsuit says, contending this amounts to an admission by the tech giant that the M1 MacBook displays are faulty.
Per the case, Apple specifically told users to remove any camera cover, palm rest cover or keyboard cover on their M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro, which reportedly retail for $999 and $1,299, respectively, before closing the display, as any of the obtrusions might cause damage when the display is closed.
The lawsuit alleges, however, that the M1 MacBook screen defect nevertheless “manifests independently of these considerations.”
“In fact many users, including Plaintiff, does [sic] not use any of the covers Apple mentions,” the suit, filed in California’s Northern District Court on September 14, reads. “Instead, the issues develop on their own without user interference.”
The M1 MacBook: a supreme screen?
Essential to Apple’s marketing of the M1 MacBook Air - and the fanfare with which it was released - was the interrelationship between the machine’s superior technology and next-level display, the lawsuit begins. In announcing this next generation of MacBooks, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “[t]he introduction of three new Macs featuring Apple’s breakthrough M1 chip represents a bold change that was years in the making, and marks a truly historic day for the Mac and for Apple,” the suit relays.
More specifically, the new M1 MacBook Air models represented the “biggest leap ever” for the computer, the case says, as the machines married an up to 8-core GPU with graphics that were up to five times faster so as to provide a display so immersive that graphics-intensive games could run at significantly higher frame rates. Also on offer with the new M1 MacBook Air was ever-faster video editing that allowed users to run for the first time multiple streams of full-quality, 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro “without dropping a frame,” Apple stated. Users were also informed that the M1 MacBook Air would allow for more movie watching than ever given it came with up to 18 hours of battery life, per the suit.
Other representations made by Apple included that the M1 MacBook Air featured support for P3 wide color, resulting in an “even more vibrant, true-to-life Retina display,” the lawsuit continues, noting Apple’s marketing comments were made alongside photographs of vivid imagery on the M1 MacBook’s display.
According to the complaint, many of the display-touting representations made by Apple for the M1 MacBook Air were repeated for the M1 MacBook Pro, which is said to allow for “full-quality, 8K ProRes video in DaVinci Resolve without dropping a single frame,” and come with “two Thunderbolt ports with USB4 support to connect more peripherals than ever,” among other bells, whistles, and design and hardware upgrades.
The lawsuit claims, however, that many M1 MacBook users’ experiences are far from what Apple promised while hyping up its next-generation laptops.
In reality, the case alleges, “not everything ‘look[s] stunning on the 13-inch Retina display,’ especially not the cracking, blacking out, or magenta, purple and blue lines and squares” that manifest within hours of powering up the M1 MacBook for the first time, an experience the lawsuit alleges is “consistent” among those who purchased the laptops.
Apple sends mixed messages on M1 MacBook display problem, case claims
As the suit tells it, user complaints about the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro displays became pouring in “immediately following Apple’s first sales of the devices.” The lawsuit claims users’ grumblings reveal a number of things about Apple’s handling of the apparent display defect, highlighting mixed messages with regard to whether users are to blame for the problem, whether the issue exists, how Apple handles repairs of the M1 MacBook screens and how long Apple may have known of the display defect (emphasis added):
“First, as the complaints below made clear, several Apple technicians begin by denying that the Defect is widespread and often suggest that the Defect must have resulted from the user’s carelessness or negligence in protecting their $999 or $1299 device. Second, at the same time that numerus [sic] Apple technicians deny that the problem exists, other Apple technicians have clearly articulated that the issue is widespread and that numerous users have reported the issue to them and their colleagues. Third, despite this latter admission, Apple has failed to uniformly address the issue, forcing some users to pay for the repairs out of pocket, by saying that the repairs are not covered under warranty or otherwise, requiring the user to handle the repair themselves. Fourth, user comments have been deleted by Apple on Apple’s forums, suggesting that Apple has long been aware of these issues. Fifth, only after months of comments such as those below, did Apple first publicly acknowledge that its screens are susceptible to cracking, discoloration, and blacking out.”
After spotlighting a number of online consumer comments about Apple’s M1 MacBook displays, the lawsuit contends that the fact that so many users have lodged similar complaints about the issue “indicates that the complaints were not the result of individual circumstances or user errors, but instead a systematic problem with the M1 MacBook’s screen.”
The suit charges Apple, who’s alleged in the lawsuit to have deleted comments about the apparent display defect in online forums, had a duty to disclose that its M1 MacBooks were defective “because it knew of the Defect.” Apple nevertheless “concealed this knowledge” and has continued to sell the computers despite being aware of the issue through “pre-release durability testing,” thousands of repair requests and management of online user forums, the suit claims.
Apple’s knowledge of this Defect is not recent. It has known since beginning sales of the M1 MacBook that the screen was defective. Nonetheless, Apple actively concealed this knowledge in the pursuit of greater profit.”
Lastly, the complaint alleges Apple has failed to exercise its discretion and carry out its warranty obligations in good faith given M1 MacBook users have been required to pay for screen repairs themselves or replace their machines with another computer that suffers from the same defect.
Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The case looks to cover anyone in the United States who bought, other than for resale, an M1 MacBook Air or M1 MacBook Pro.
The suit similarly looks to represent a New Jersey-only subclass of M1 MacBook Air and/or Pro buyers.
I own an M1 MacBook. How do I join the lawsuit?
Generally speaking, there’s nothing you need to do to join or otherwise take part in the proposed class action detailed on this page. Truth is, for most class action cases you’ll only need to act if and when a lawsuit settles. If a settlement is agreed upon, the people who are covered by the lawsuit, called “class members,” will typically receive notice of the deal by mail and/or email and can then file a claim for whatever compensation the court deems appropriate.
It’s important to remember that it’s common for a class action lawsuit to take some time to work its way through the legal system, usually toward a settlement, dismissal or arbitration outside of court. For now, one of the best things consumers can do is stay informed and sit tight.
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