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Email Misconceptions

Here are two important questions to consider:

  • What do you do if a recipient disputes the content of your email?

  • What do you do if a recipient claims to have never received your email?

If your response to either of these examples makes reference to the ‘Sent’ folder, Archive, or Read Receipt as a solution, you are falling prey to one of many common misconceptions about email that may be exposing you, your organization, and your business partners to liability in case of a dispute involving email. Many people mistakenly believe that their important email messages are already verifiable and therefore protected if challenged. However, this is not the case, as shown by recent cases and court rulings. Today’s standard email systems offer virtually no proof or protection for the email sender if a dispute over content or delivery status should arise.

To help you separate fact from fiction and ensure proper protection, RPost presents below some of the most commonly-held misconceptions relating to email that have been gathered during a recent poll of CIOs, IT staff, and attorneys across the country. RPost solves the risks identified by these common misconceptions:

Misconception #1: 'Read Receipt' gives delivery proof

FACT: Read Receipts that you get from your standard email program are legally meaningless and provide little evidentiary value since they can be easily forged, do not prove anything about the content of the email, and require the recipient to return the receipt in order to function.

Misconception #2: Storing everything in my sent folder/archive protects me

FACT: Email stored in your ‘Sent’ folder means nothing and is not legally verifiable, because any email message can be clicked and dragged there without actually having been sent. In addition, any word in a sent message can very easily be edited and changed with a couple of mouse clicks. Archived emails only show half the picture: they may prove what you sent, but they do not provide any legal verification of what was received by the other side.

Misconception #3: Printed email is admissible into evidence

FACT: A printed email (from the sent folder or inbox) can easily be denied admission into evidence by simply challenging content authenticity, time of sending, and/or whether it was actually delivered.

Misconception #4: My email is always delivered (unless I receive a bounce notice)

FACT: According to Ferris Research, 3% of non-bulk, business-to-business Internet email* goes undelivered to its intended recipient. The two main reasons for non-delivery are legitimate messages wrongly identified as spam -- "false positives" -- and email sent to mis-typed addresses and those that no longer exist.

Much of this undelivered mail is without any “bounce” notification returned to the sender, because many mail systems turn off these bounce notices due to spam and blacklisting concerns. If one does not receive a bounce notice, it does NOT mean positive delivery. Therefore if your intended recipient claims "I didn't receive your email," then it may be a valid excuse.

* "Business-to-business Internet email" is mail sent from one corporate email system to another via the Internet, not including mail to consumers, nor mail that remains inside an organization's private system. "Non-bulk" means that this statistic ignores legitimate bulk mail, such as opt-in direct marketing and newsletters.