Emoji miscommunication leads to $62,000 fine

OTTAWA: A Canadian farmer has been ordered to pay more than C$82,000 (US$61,784) in damages over an emoji confusion that a Saskatchewan judge resolved by ruling that a thumbs-up image is enough to accept contractual terms.

Chris Achter, the owner of a farming company in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, had sent a thumbs-up emoji in response to a photograph of a flax-buying contract sent to him by a grains buyer in 2021.

Months later, when the time of the delivery arrived, the buyer – which had been doing business with Achter for several years – did not receive the flax.

That started a dispute that led to “a far-flung search for the equivalent of the Rosetta Stone in cases from Israel, New York State and some tribunals in Canada” to unearth what a thumbs-up emoji means, according to the June court ruling that surfaced in local media this week.

The buyer, South West Terminal, argued that the emoji implied acceptance of contractual terms, while Achter said he used the thumbs-up image only to indicate that he had received the contract, but not to indicate his agreement.

In a summary judgment littered with 24 instances of the emoji, Judge TJ Keene said: “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Chris okayed or approved the contract just like he had done before except this time he used a thumbs-up emoji.”

“In my opinion the signature requirement was met by the thumbs-up emoji originating from Chris and his unique cell phone,” Keene said.



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