It looks like technology has dragged yet another individual into legal problems, and this time a Canadian farmer was at the center of the dispute. Chris Achter, a farmer in Canada’s Prairie provinces, recently was held responsible for a contract he claims to not have agreed to.
How did this happen? Well, Achter received a text message from grain buyer Kent Mickleborough that included a photo of a proposed contract requiring him to sell 86 metric tons of flax to grain producer Southwest Terminal (SWT). Achter responded with a “thumbs up” emoji.
Mickleborough interpreted this as confirmation of the contract’s terms. Unfortunately for Achter, he was found liable for almost $62,000 when he missed the delivery date for the flax.
When questioned about the agreement, Achter said he did not realize the extent of the agreement he was entering and claimed that he was only indicating that he received the text. He also noted that he was never sent the entire contract to read over and sign.
But unfortunately, the judge disagreed and sided with Mickleborough. Judge J. T. Keene ruled that, under the circumstances, the “thumbs up” was a valid way to convey Achter’s acceptance of the flax contract.
The situation also shines a light on something that people should consider when agreeing to agreements via technology: any agreement should be documented in writing, not just a single emoji response.
It’s understandable why Achter might feel a sense of injustice. After all, he was responding to a text with an emoji, not signing a binding contract. But the judge ruled that the emoji was enough.
This situation is concerning on many levels. It sets a worrying precedent, showing that with our current technology, it’s possible to enter into something binding with nothing more than an emoji response. This has quite a lot of implications, beyond just this case.
If this ruling stands, it could set a dangerous precedent in the online world. What does this mean for agreeing to certain contracts or services online? Is a simple thumbs up or retweet enough to be considered a binding agreement?
This case appears to be an example of how quickly technology can get ahead of our legal systems. Emojis are becoming more and more commonplace in our daily communication, but it seems that the legal system has yet to catch up.
This case should serve as a warning for people to be extra careful when it comes to binding agreements. If the agreement does not explicitly state that it is binding, it may be best not to respond with something like a “thumbs up” or “OK.” In this case, silence would have been golden.
The Emoji Case. Stop recklessly using emojis.
In South West Terminal Ltd. Vs. Achter Land & Cattle Ltd. The court (Keene J) held that a thumbs up emoji (👍) constitutes “an action in electronic form” and can serve as a valid means of expressing acceptance of a contract.… pic.twitter.com/rbHtnijBva
— Ivan Bwowe (@BwoweIvan) July 10, 2023