Thumbs-up Emoji counts as contract agreement, says Canada court

A new era in communications has dawned. Beware when you click on that thumbs-up emoji.

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A Canadian court has ruled that the thumbs-up emoji -- which pops up everywhere -- might mean anything from “way to go” to “I’m going to stop reading your texts now, don’t send any more.” Now a Canadian court has ruled it also can mean that you are agreeing to a contract, The New York Times reported.

A judge said the “new reality in Canadian society” is that we are in an age where many people communicate with hearts, smiley and frowny faces, and the occasional dollar sign. He said that is why courts now have to consider emojis as language, even in serious business communications, the newspaper reported.

Kent Mickleborough, a grain buyer for a large company, sent a mass text of a photo of a signed contract to many customers offering C$17, the equivalent of $12.73 in American dollars, for 87 metric tons of flax. Chris Achter, a Saskatchewan farmer, replied with a thumbs-up emoji.

Mickleborough said it was his understanding that the farmer was agreeing to the contract “in his way.” He had written “Please confirm the flax contract” in the text, along with the photo of the paper contract.

But the farmer, Chris Achter, said he only meant to signify that he had received the text, not that he agreed to the terms of the contract.

Mickleborough and Achter had a longstanding business relationship. Mickelborough argued that in the past, Achter had agreed to contracts by texting back short messages like “looks good,” “OK” or “Yup,” the Times reported.,

Justice Timothy Keene of the Court of King’s Bench for Saskatchewan agreed with Mickelborough that a thumbs-up emoji is as good as a signature. He said that in the past, after terse communications, Achter had “delivered the grain as contracted and been paid.”

Not this time.

In November, when the delivery was due, the price of flax had gone up, The Guardian reported. So the judge ordered the farmer to pay damages of $C82,000, or about $61,000 in U.S. dollars.

Jean-Pierre Jordaan, the attorney representing Achter, argued that allowing a thumbs-up emoji to stand as confirmation of a contract will “open up the floodgates” to all kinds of cases asking courts to define the meaning of other emojis, such as a fist bump, a handshake, or a fist, according to The Guardian.

A partner at the law firm that represented Mickleborough would not comment on the case. But he did tell Canadian Lawyer magazine that it would make a good question in law school someday.