A judge in Canada has said a farmer must pay C$82,000 (£48,596/$61,784) after ruling that a thumbs up emoji is enough to accept contractual terms.
Kent Mickleborough, a grain buyer with South West Terminal, sent out a mass text to numerous clients in March 2021 stating that the company was looking to buy 86 tonnes of flax at a price of C$17 (£9.97/$12.73) per bushel.
The court heard that Mickleborough spoke to Achter on the phone and sent a photo of the contract via text message, writing ‘please confirm flax contract’.
Achter sent back a thumbs up emoji - but when the due date for the delivery of the flax rolled around, none was sent, and to make matters worse the price of flax had increased since the original text exchange.
The two men then began a dispute over what the emoji had meant, with Mickleborough claiming that it implied Achter had agreed to the contractual terms and Achter disagreeing.
In an affidavit Achter said that he had only used the emoji to show that he had received the text - not to confirm the contract.
He said: “I deny that he accepted the thumbs-up emoji as a digital signature of the incomplete contract.
“I did not have time to review the flax contract and merely wanted to indicate that I did receive his text message.”
Justice Timothy Keene said that the case ‘led the parties to a far flung search for the equivalent of the Rosetta Stone in cases from Israel, New York State and some tribunals in Canada, etc. to unearth what a [thumb up] emoji means’.
He went on: “This court readily acknowledges that a [thumb up] emoji is a non-traditional means to ‘sign’ a document but nevertheless under these circumstances this was a valid way to convey the two purposes of a ‘signature’.”
Keene said the court ‘cannot (nor should it) attempt to stem the tide of technology and common usage’.
He added: “This appears to be the new reality in Canadian society and courts will have to be ready to meet the new challenges that may arise from the use of emojis and the like.”
Keene said that he didn’t believe the ruling would ‘open up the floodgates’ to introduce new meanings to existing emojis.Featured Image Credit: Neil Godwin/Future via Getty Images / EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA/Pexels