Apple sued over MacBook Pro GPU failures

October 29, 2014 // 11:49 a.m.

Tags: #apple #class-action #consumer-rights #failure #gpu #lawsuit #macbook-pro #macbook-pro-2011 #solder #warranty

Apple has found itself at the centre of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of buyers of its 2011-era MacBook Pro laptops, who claim the company is ignoring a manufacturing defect that leads to performance losses and eventual total failure.

Apple's MacBook Pro laptop family has long stood at the very head of the premium portable computing market, offering great performance coupled with a powerful and attractive operating system to those willing to pay. Models sold in 2011, however, are claimed to have a flaw: a lead-free solder used to attach the graphics processor to the logic board, which becomes brittle due to the frequent rapid heating and cooling cycles typical of such devices. Over time, this is claimed to result in throttling of the graphics processor, graphical corruption and eventually complete failure of the laptop itself.

While Apple replaced faulty logic boards under warranty, the company has washed its hands of the issue post-warranty-period. Those still suffering from the defect are being told they will need to spend between $350 and $600 to have their logical boards replaced, something the plaintiffs in the case claim is unacceptable for a flaw which existed at the time of manufacturing and which is in no way due to abuse or misuse by the consumer.

Apple, for its part, has never publicly acknowledged that there is a manufacturing flaw at fault. The company did release a software update shortly after the new models went on sale which claimed to improve graphics stability, but which was believed by sufferers to simply throttle the GPU in order to minimise the thermal cycling and thus reduce the rate at which the solder begins to crack.

Following a petition on Change.org which gathered more than 20,000 signatures, two law firms - Whitfield Bryson & Mason LLP and Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski - have joined forces to launch a class-action suit against the company in the California federal court, demanding the the company publicly acknowledges the problem and makes things right for its customers. Apple has not yet commented on the suit, but is expected to fight rather than capitulate.

Under UK and European consumer rights legislation, goods purchased must last for a reasonable period of time - a vague statement which reaches as far as six years post-purchase for premium products - regardless of any warranty limitations claimed by the company. After the first six months, however, the onus is on the consumer to prove that the fault existed at the time of purchase and is not the result of misuse or abuse.
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