Return receipt

Return receipt

A return receipt is a postal service document confirming the arrival of a message or parcel at its intended destination. Internationally, the service is known as avis de réception (AR), but in some English-speaking countries, acknowledgement of receipt or advice of receipt is used.



As applied to email, the term return receipt is somewhat ambiguous or misleading. In particular, when delivering a message to a recipient's computer system, which is controlled by that recipient or someone acting on his behalf, there is no way to prevent that computer system from making the message available to the recipient without issuing an acknowledgment to the sender.

In contrast with a physical delivery medium in which a courier acting on behalf of the sender can honor the sender's requirements for delivery - up to and including hand-delivery of the message to the recipient and requiring that recipient to authenticate himself to the courier before receiving the message. This difference in capability between physical delivery systems and electronic mail causes confusion and misunderstanding. For this reason, many experts eschew the term return receipt in connection with email, in favor of less ambiguous terms.

Two notification services exist in Internet mail that are similar to return receipts in the physical world. One is called Delivery Status Notifications or DSNs, and the other is termed Message Disposition Notifications or MDNs.

Delivery Status Notifications

DSN refers to both a service that may optionally be provided by Message Transfer Agents (MTAs) using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), and a message format to be used to return indications of message delivery to the sender of that message. Specifically, the DSN SMTP service is used to request that indications of successful delivery or delivery failure (in the DSN format) be returned. Issuance of a DSN upon delivery failure is the default behavior, whereas issuance of a DSN upon successful delivery requires a specific request from the sender. Note that for various reasons, it is possible for a message to be delivered, and a DSN being returned to the sender indicating successful delivery, but the message subsequently fail to be seen by the recipient or even made available to him. The DSN SMTP extension, message format, and associated delivery status codes are specified in RFCs 3461-3464.

Message Disposition Notifications

MDNs provide a notification of the "disposition" of a message - indicating, for example, whether it is read by a recipient, discarded before being read, etc. However for privacy reasons, and also for backward compatibility, requests for MDNs are entirely advisory in nature - i.e. recipients are free to ignore such requests. The format and usage MDNs are specified in RFC 3798.

A description of how multiple Mail User Agents (MUAs) should handle the generation of MDNs in an Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP4) environment is provided in RFC 3503.

A non-standard but widely used way to request return receipts is with the "Return-Receipt-To:" (RRT) email header. An email address is specified as the content of the header. The first time a user opens an email message containing this header, the client will typically prompt the user whether or not to send a return receipt.

See also


  • K. Moore. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Service Extension for Delivery Status Notifications (DSNs). RFC 3461, January 2003.
  • G. Vaudreuil. The Multipart/Report Content Type for the Reporting of Mail System Administrative Messages. RFC 3462, January 2003.
  • G. Vaudreuil. Enhanced Mail System Status Codes. RFC 3463, January 2003.
  • K. Moore & G. Vaudreuil. An Extensible Message Format for Delivery Status Notifications. RFC 3464, January 2003.
  • A. Melnikov. Message Disposition Notification (MDN) profile for Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP). RFC 3503, March 2003.
  • T. Hansen & G. Vaudreuil (editors). Message Disposition Notification. RFC 3798, May 2004.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • return receipt — The mailing card (Form 3811 for domestic and Form 2865 for international) signed by the addressee of an article and mailed back to the sender as evidence of delivery. This supplemental mail service is available for a fee when using Express Mail… …   Glossary of postal terms

  • return receipt — pranešimas apie išsiųstą laišką statusas T sritis informatika apibrėžtis Trumpas ↑elektroninis laiškas, kuriuo pranešama ↑siuntėjui apie tai, kaip jo išsiųstas laiškas pasiekė adresatą ir ką adresatas su juo darė. Dažniausiai iš laiško gavėjo… …   Enciklopedinis kompiuterijos žodynas

  • return receipt — pranešimas apie laiško gavimą statusas T sritis informatika apibrėžtis Pranešimas, patvirtinantis ↑elektroninio laiško gavimą, kurį laiško gavėjo ↑pašto programa išsiunčia to laiško siuntėjui, jeigu laiške buvo toks pageidavimas ir laiško gavėjas …   Enciklopedinis kompiuterijos žodynas

  • return receipt — noun : a postal receipt sent back to the sender of a piece of insured or registered mail on payment of a special fee that shows to whom and at what time the mail was delivered * * * a card bearing the signature of the recipient of registered… …   Useful english dictionary

  • return receipt — a card bearing the signature of the recipient of registered postal matter, for return to the sender as proof of receipt. * * * …   Universalium

  • return receipt for merchandise — A special service that provides the sender with a mailing receipt and a return receipt. A delivery record is kept at the office of address. It does not include insurance coverage and does not provide for restricted delivery …   Glossary of postal terms

  • Receipt — A receipt is a written acknowledgement that a specified article or sum of money has been received as an exchange for goods or services. The receipt acts as the title to the property obtained in the exchange.Printed [ NJ.] In English speaking… …   Wikipedia

  • receipt — n. receiving 1) to acknowledge receipt of 2) on receipt of written acknowledgment of something received 3) to give, make out, write out a receipt 4) to get a receipt 5) (esp. AE) a return receipt (for registered mail) 6) a receipt for * * * [rɪ… …   Combinatory dictionary

  • receipt — давать расписку return receipt расписка в получении возвращённого предмета debit memorandum receipt расходная расписка в получении shipping receipt расписка в принятии груза к перевозке forwarding agent s receipt экспедиторская расписка cash… …   English-Russian travelling dictionary

  • Return — The change in the value of a portfolio over an evaluation period, including any distributions made from the portfolio during that period. The New York Times Financial Glossary * * * ▪ I. return re‧turn 1 [rɪˈtɜːn ǁ ɜːrn] verb 1. [transitive]… …   Financial and business terms

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