Gmail Sending Erroneous Bounce Error Messages

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If you emailed someone with a Gmail address, and then received a message from Gmail’s Mail Delivery Subsystem ([email protected]) with the subject “Delivery Status Notification (Failure)” saying that “Your message wasn’t delivered” to them “because the address couldn’t be found, or is unable to receive mail” you’re not alone.

And you’re not crazy either, thinking that the Gmail email address is one that you have emailed before, and received email from; that email address almost certainly is a legitimate email address, despite that Gmail says.

The message that you received from Gmail will look something like this:

From: Mail Delivery Subsystem
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)
Date: December 15, 2020 at 1:57:53 PM MST

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Your message wasn’t delivered to (the Gmail address you sent it to) because the address couldn’t be found, or is unable to receive mail.
LEARN MORE
The response was:
550 5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does not exist. Please try double-checking the recipient’s email address for typos or unnecessary spaces. Learn more at https://support.google.com/mail/?p=NoSuchUser a10sor4808qtc.65 – gsmtp

Reporting-MTA: dns; googlemail.com
Received-From-MTA: dns; [email protected]
Arrival-Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2020 12:57:53 -0800 (PST)
X-Original-Message-ID:

Final-Recipient: rfc822; (the Gmail address you sent it to)
Action: failed
Status: 5.1.1
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550-5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does not exist. Please try
550-5.1.1 double-checking the recipient’s email address for typos or
550-5.1.1 unnecessary spaces. Learn more at
550 5.1.1 https://support.google.com/mail/?p=NoSuchUser a10sor4808qtc.65 – gsmtp
Last-Attempt-Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2020 12:57:53 -0800 (PST)

These messages are caused by a massive failure on Gmail’s side, which saw countless Gmail users unable to access their accounts. While Google/Gmail isn’t saying, by putting two and two together (first 2: Gmail users aren’t able to access their accounts; second 2: email sent to those users bouncing with a “no such user” message), it’s almost certain that the “4” one comes up with is that Gmail somehow managed to make those user accounts disappear.

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Here’s what Google has to say about the issue, according to their timeline. Note that almost nothing is said about how this affected people trying to send email to Gmail users, nor whether the affected email will ultimately be delivered to those Gmail users, or if you should re-send that email.


12/15/20, 2:29 PM
We’re aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a significant subset of users. The affected users are able to access Gmail, but are seeing error messages, high latency, and/or other unexpected behavior. We will provide an update by 12/15/20, 3:30 PM detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.

12/15/20, 3:18 PM
Our team is continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by 12/15/20, 4:00 PM with more information about this problem. Thank you for your patience. The affected users are able to access Gmail, but are seeing error messages, high latency, and/or other unexpected behavior.

12/15/20, 3:44 PM
Gmail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change. The affected users are able to access Gmail, but are seeing error messages, high latency, and/or other unexpected behavior.

12/15/20, 4:09 PM
We expect to resolve the problem affecting a significant subset of users of Gmail at 12/15/20, 5:00 PM. Please note that this time frame is an estimate and may change. The affected users are able to access Gmail, but are seeing error messages, high latency, and/or other unexpected behavior.

12/15/20, 4:51 PM
The problem with Gmail has been resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better. If you are still experiencing an issue, please contact us via the Google Help Center.

Affected users received a bounce notification with the error “The email account that you tried to reach does not exist” after sending an email to addresses ending in @gmail.com.

Of course, it isn’t just affecting Gmail users who “received a bounce notification with the error “The email account that you tried to reach does not exist” after sending an email to addresses ending in @gmail.com”, it’s all senders who sent email to a Gmail address.

And so, the question remains whether to resend the email to your Gmail correspondents, or to assume that the email that generated the erroneous bounce will be delivered to them. While many email systems will retry sending an email which initially generates a bounce message, generally they won’t resend when the bounce message includes that there is no such email address. So we recommend waiting a day or two (for all of the Gmail issues to be fully addressed) and then sending the email again if you have not received a reply to your initial email that generated the bounce message.

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