Farmer cops $61K Fine for Thumbs-up Emoji Mix-up

Emojis: a quick and easy way to respond to a message without the need for words.

Emojis: a quick and easy way to respond to a message without the need for words.

In the digital age, a thumbs-up emoji has become a rather informal way of acknowledging a message has been received. But could it also be considered a ‘digital’ signature?

A Saskatchewan judge seems to think so.

After a recent court ruling in Canada, a simple thumbs-up miscommunication has cost one Canadian farmer nearly A$92,000.

It all started in 2021 when a grains buyer sent Saskatchewan farmer, Chris Achter, a photo of a contract to buy flax (a flowering plant, cultivated as a food crop) via text message, along with the message “Please confirm flax contract.” 

Chris responded with the, now ill-fated, thumbs-up emoji.  

Months later, the buyer, grains company South West Terminal, did not receive delivery of the flax as expected. The company had previously been doing business with Mr Achter for several years. 

What followed was a lengthy legal battle to get to the bottom of what a thumbs-up emoji means.

Chris Achter argued it was simply to acknowledge receipt, but a judge ruled it amounted to a contractual agreement.

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

To make matters worse for Achter, the price of flax had risen from US$17 per bushel at the time of negotiations to US$41 per bushel – a considerable difference. 

Achter was thus ordered to pay more than C$82,000 (A$92,000) in damages as a result. 

A mistake that he will surely never repeat.



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