Saskatchewan Court Gives a Thumbs-Up to Emoji Contracts
A Saskatchewan court has determined that a thumbs-up emoji sent via text message can be interpreted as a contractual agreement. The case involved South West Terminal Ltd. (SWT) and Achter Land & Cattle Ltd., with the dispute revolving around a flax contract. SWT maintained that a thumbs-up emoji sent by Achter was an agreement to deliver flax to SWT.
Justice T. J. Keene concurred with SWT’s interpretation, awarding the company $82,200 in damages, plus interest and court costs. The court documents reveal that SWT has been purchasing grain from Achter since 2012, reports CTV News.
In March 2021, a representative from SWT texted the owners of Achter with details of a flax delivery agreement. After a few calls and a drafted contract, the SWT representative texted an image of the contract to one of the owners of Achter, asking for confirmation. The owner responded with a thumbs-up emoji.
However, the flax was not delivered as agreed in November. Justice Keene stated that a contract is formed when there is an offer by one party that is accepted by the other with the intention of creating a legal relationship. He added that the standard was whether a “reasonable bystander” could conclude the parties agreed to the contract.
The court record shows that the SWT representative had previously conducted 15-20 contracts with Achter, four of which involved sending the contract via text message. In each instance, the owner of Achter responded with an ‘okay’ or ‘yup’, which both parties understood as confirmation of the contract.
Justice Keene ruled in favour of SWT, stating that a thumbs-up emoji can be used to express acceptance. He acknowledged the novelty of the case, noting that courts must be ready to meet new challenges that may arise from the use of emojis and similar technologies. The decision was made in Swift Current’s Court of King’s Bench on June 8.