Amazon reviews case settles

Historian apologises and pays damages and costs over critical book reviews he posted under a pseudonym

A settlement was concluded today of the complaint brought by Dr Rachel Polonsky and Professor Robert Service against Professor Orlando Figes of Birkbeck College, London over reviews of their works posted on the Amazon website.

Dr Polonsky and Professor Service complained over an email that was circulated on 15 April 2010 by Professor Figes in which he had denied responsibility for publishing critical reviews of their books, posted under the pseudonym ‘Historian’.

The story first hit the headlines on 18 April when Professor Figes announced that his wife had written all ‘Historian’s’ reviews without his knowledge – including a flattering review of one of his own books – only to admit one week later that he was in fact the author.

As part of the settlement Professor Figes circulated an apology and retraction in which he accepted that his denial of responsibility was false and withdrew any adverse imputations that his email had conveyed against Dr Polonsky and Professor Service. He also apologised for instructing his previous solicitor to send letters threatening libel proceedings against Professor Service for suggesting that he had written the reviews.

He and his wife also agreed to pay the complainants a sum in damages as well as their legal costs, partly on the indemnity basis. He has further undertaken not to repeat the allegations, not to post pseudonymous reviews of their works, and not to use fraud, subterfuge or unlawful means to attack or damage them in their professional capacity.

5RB‘s Justin Rushbrooke, instructed by Carter-Ruck, acted for Dr Polonsky and Professor Service.