Apple today launched a program for MacBook Pros that will repair, free of charge, some laptops with distorted or no video.
The deal, which Apple called a "repair extension program," may put an end to years of complaints from MacBook Pro owners about flaky video, scrambled or black screens, and sudden reboots. The complaints have generated at least two federal lawsuits and an expansive campaign on Change.org petitioning CEO Tim Cook to make things right.
The affected notebooks were 15- and 17-in. MacBook Pros made in 2011, and 15-in. Retina-equipped MacBook Pros manufactured from mid-2012 to early 2013, Apple said in a support document. The machines were sold between February 2011 and December 2013.
Customers can check if their MacBook Pro falls within those spans by using a tool that requires the notebook's serial number, which can be found by selecting "About This Mac" from the Apple menu at the top of the display.
The program kicks off today in the U.S. and Canada, and will begin Feb. 27 in other countries. The extended repairs will be available to eligible owners until Feb. 27, 2016, or three years from the system's date of sale, whichever is later.
Apple will be doing the repairs at its retail outlets and through authorized service providers. Customers can also ship their MacBook Pros to Apple, with an estimated five-to-seven-day wait between the notebook arriving at a repair center and its return.
Refunds will be issued to customers who had previously paid for repairs to their video-crippled MacBook Pros.
Complaints of sub-standard -- in some cases, very sub-standard -- video on MacBook Pro notebooks hark back to 2011 on Apple's own support forum, where scores of threads contain reports of video issues. The most massive of those threads currently tallies 12,000 messages and has been viewed more than 4 million times by users.
Apple has faced at least two federal lawsuits -- both of which sought class-action status -- over the shoddy MacBook Pro video. One suit, filed in March 2013, was dismissed late last year, but in January 2015 the plaintiff submitted a notice to appeal.
The more recent lawsuit was filed in October 2014, also in a California federal court. That case is ongoing.
An irate MacBook owner also launched a campaign on Change.org, an online petition website, that has collected over 38,000 virtual signatures.
"Everyone who bought a MacBook Pro spent a huge premium ... and did not expect to have a manufacturing defect," wrote Australian Raj Dsouza, who began the campaign in late 2013. "This issue had made a 2,500$ investment a piece of junk in 2 years. We do not buy Apple products with this in mind."
In an update to the petition today, Dsouza was optimistic about the new repair program. "Though this step is just repair and not a replacement, it's the first step of acknowledging that there is a problem," Dsouza said. "We are very close to [an] end of 2011 MacBook Pro issues."