A smiley face could land you up in legal hot water

You might think twice before inserting that emoticon in your next instant message correspondence. Here’s why?

Seemingly innocent emoticons in an instant message or e-mail could potentially lead to your being bound by unwanted contracts and held liable for damages‚ warns legal adviser to insurance and risk specialist Risk Benefit Solutions Johannes du Plessis.

“Many individuals negotiate lease agreements with landlords or agents‚ or make purchases and sale agreements with sellers they find in newspaper or website classifieds.

“Placing a thumbs-up‚ smiley face‚ bottle of champagne‚ dancing figures‚ sunshine‚ rainbow‚ heart‚ or any other emoticon which creates the impression of positivity‚ acceptance or agreement in the mind of the receiver‚ might result in the conclusion of a legal contract.”

Du Plessis said this could result in the sender being bound “as if he had the will and intention to enter into the contract”.

“Communicating with the use of emoticons makes it very easy for instant message users to be held liable for damages. The implication of this is clear‚ so do not put yourself at risk by communicating in any way that could create an incorrect impression or belief in the mind of the receiver that a legal contract has been concluded.”


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