A registered letter ensures that once someone signed it off, they cannot claim that they are not aware of the content (generally speaking).

Why someone would not bring to court the empty envelope claiming that this is what they received?

This is easily countered by sending a letter which has the address directly printed on it and accordingly folded.

One of the possible limitations is the number of pages (it works best with one) but I can imagine that one can put more pages and it is less credible to claim "we just received page one" than "the envelope was empty".

But even limiting the question to one page and since the act of providing paperwork to the adversary is so important in legal proceedings (and often requires registered letters, at least in France and generally EU) I am wondering why empty envelopes (and how to counter them) is not an issue.

2 Answers 2


As I understand it, legal procedure in Common Law jurisdictions (e.g. the UK) is primarily based on evidence given by a person. Paperwork exists to verify that someone has not misremembered something, but even when you have paperwork you need to have someone testify that this is the right paperwork and it hasn't been forged. A piece of paper on its own means nothing.

In practice of course the two sides will agree to accept routine matters rather than dragging lots of third parties (e.g. the post office employees) into court to no point.

In the case of a letter where you need to prove it was received, the sender will testify that they sent the letter and that the copy they have introduced into evidence is a true copy. The proof of delivery merely shows that the item wasn't lost in the post.

If one party testifies that they sent a letter and the other testifies that they merely received an empty envelope then someone is lying, which is a crime meriting further investigation.

  • It isn't necessarily true that one of them is lying. For example, if the seal of the envelope was weak, a letter could have fallen out in transit. Alternatively, someone could open a lot of letters at once without looking at the content, misplaced one, and thought that it was empty mistakenly. In practice, when judges are finders of fact, they usually try very hard to assume that everyone is telling the truth as they perceived it, even if an explanation that someone was lying seems more plausible.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 13, 2018 at 15:36

In the US, at least, a registered letter is not primarily used to verify that a particular letter has been received. That purpose is served by the much cheaper certified letter, often with a return receipt. A registered letter is used when a valuable item is included, such as a stock certificate, a negotiable security, or (in a registered package) a piece of valuable jewelry. Registered mail provides greater security in transit, plus insurance in case of loss or theft.

However, the question asked here could apply to a certified letter. In practice, it seems that people rarely attempt to falsely deny having received a particular certified letter, claiming instead to have received an empty envelope. I think this is in significant part because when a person can demonstrate having sent a letter by certified mail, and that something was delivered to the other party, they are generally treated as if the proper mail had been delivered.

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