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I receive a lot of email messages from a third party service, so every email comes with a from emailaddress@email.com via third party. How do I get the email and send my automated response to the original sender, but not the third party service, because my canned responses are sending to the third party service?

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The third party you're talking about is usually called an Email Service Provider (ESP). These companies offer dedicated bulk email services either for marketing or high-volume system messages (account creation, order confirmation, etc).

Unfortunately it's a bit confusing to identify the "Sender" address as that can mean different things, such as the:

  • From Line: Indicates who the sender of an email is. Typically comprised of a Friendly From Address and a Friendly From Name, which is usually the sender's or company's name.
  • Reply-to Address: The email address that receives messages sent from users who click "reply" in their email clients. Can differ from the "from" address which can be an automated or unmonitored email address used only to send messages to a distribution list.
  • Return-Path: Also referred to as the "bounce address" or "envelope sender address". This is the address a message really came from, as opposed to the Friendly From Address, and it's the address to which any undeliverable message notices (bounces) are sent.

Things get even more difficult as many ESPs control all three of these addresses. They may or may not even forward replies to any of these back to their client, depending on the contract they have in place. As every ESP operates differently (and there are loads out there) there's no way to determine the true origin with any consistency, and certainly no easy way to bypass the ESP.


Term definitions from ReturnPath blog post.

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