A complaint by pop singer Kylie Minogue over an article in the News of the World should not have taken seven months to resolve, the Press Complaints Commission said.
And the watchdog has released statistics revealing that complaints involving lawyers take 71 days to deal with, compared with 32 days on average.
In a deal brokered by the PCC, the News of the World has apologised to Minogue for wrongly claiming, in the Rav Singh column, that she was due to sign a record deal worth £35m.
The story, which was headlined “Kylie to sign for £35 million”, appeared in June 2003.
According to record company EMI, no such deal had ever been contemplated and it criticised the NoW for not publishing a correction soon enough.
The NoW said the story had been supplied by a “highly credible source” within EMI and that portions of the supposed contract had been read out over the phone.
After negotiations via the PCC, the NoW agreed to publish a correction and apology on the same page as the original article.
However, further wrangling with EMI’s lawyers ensued, which included presenting the PCC with “repeated mathematical calculations” regarding the size of the required correction.
They also urged the PCC to censure the NoW because it had not apologised promptly enough.
The commission declined to issue a ruling condemning the NoW because it said the paper had agreed to print an apology as soon as EMI produced evidence that the story was wrong.
A spokesman said: “This complaint was of a type which should have been dealt with in a short time by an appropriate correction or apology.
“Instead it has taken seven months so far to produce a result involving a large volume of correspondence, in part repetitive and out of all proportion to the issues involved.”
By Dominic Ponsford