‘Thumbs Up’ Deal

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In the digital age, the use of emojis has become entrenched in every-day communications as a means to say more with less. This form of communication has recently been recognised by a Canadian court in South West Terminal Ltd v Achter Land & Cattle [2023] as binding within the context of contractual negotiations. The Court set a precedence whereby it recognised that the use of a ‘thumbs-up’ emoji sent via a mobile text message was a valid form of acceptance of a contractual offer.

The decision is not binding on Australian courts, however it may offer a persuasive argument should it be tested, particularly in a society which is ever evolving toward the automation and digitalisation of legal transactions.

In its decision, the Canadian court addressed the obvious concerns in relation to the vast interpretations of emojis (and their intended use) by stating:

“courts will have to be ready to meet the new challenges that may arise from the use of emojis and the like.”

The case demonstrates the court’s willingness to adapt to the modernisation of communications and otherwise highlights the importance of language and expression whilst negotiating contracts or other legal transactions. Individuals and businesses should be careful to use any forms of communication which may be misinterpreted and be mindful of using clear and unambiguous language.

Whilst Australia is yet to determine such a case, it will undoubtedly arise in the future as society evolves and adapts to technological advancements. Given the variety of possible interpretations associated with expressive emojis, it would not be surprising that these issues will arise in future employment, defamation or domestic violence matters.

If you would like to discuss any of the above with our team, please contact us today.

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