A judge has ruled the thumbs-up emoji can represent contract agreement

Subscribe to Forte Magazine


A judge has ruled the thumbs-up emoji can represent contract agreement

Aussies should be aware of how they respond to receiving official documents.

In a quirky twist of legal developments, the humble thumbs-up emoji has been officially recognised as a valid representation of contract agreement by a Canadian Judge.

This fascinating ruling has implications for how Australians respond to official documents, according to Andrew Rich, Head of National Industrial and Employment Law at Slater and Gordon.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around the region here.

The case in question involved a farmer who was ordered to pay $61,442 AUD for not fulfilling a contract, with the defence arguing that the thumbs-up emoji merely indicated he would review the contract later. However, Justice Keene emphasised that courts must adapt to the “new reality” of communication methods in the digital age.

“This court readily acknowledges that a 👍 emoji is a non-traditional means to ‘sign’ a document, but nevertheless, under these circumstances, this was a valid way to convey the two purposes of a ‘signature,'” wrote Justice Keene.

While the ruling was made overseas, it may hold persuasive value in Australian courts. Rich explained that while not a binding precedent, the law is evolving to reflect modern realities, and other courts may consider this decision in similar scenarios.

“An Australian court can consider this legal decision when making a ruling, it can be thought of as a suggestion or advice from another court,” Rich explains.

“While it isn’t a binding precedent, the law is increasingly modernising to accurately reflect the realities of our day-to-day lives; there are many common scenarios that would be similar circumstances to this.”

For instance, imagine your boss sends you a new contract, and you respond with a thumbs-up emoji, intending to confirm receipt. But later, upon reading the terms, you disagree. Should the matter go to court, a Judge could refer to this decision.

The Canadian case raised concerns about accepting other emojis like the ‘fist bump’ or ‘handshake’ as indications of agreement, but Justice Keene dismissed these fears. According to Rich, this suggests other courts may not accept those emojis as commonly understood representations of agreement.

“This ruling means that by just sending a simple thumbs up, people may be locking themselves into a contract without necessarily intending to.

“I don’t think people need to be afraid, but they just need to be aware of the new realities and the challenges that the use of emojis and other new forms of communication create and just be careful.

“When it comes to receiving and sending contracts, always be clear with what you mean, always read everything carefully. Seek legal advice if you feel uncomfortable,” Rich said.

It’s a fascinating ruling that highlights how emojis and new forms of communication can have unintended legal consequences. The bottom line: Be clear in your communication when dealing with contracts, read everything carefully, and seek legal advice if uncertain.

So, before you hit that thumbs-up button, make sure you truly mean it! 👍