I submitted a review paper to a well-regarded A* journal 9 months ago. After about 6 weeks, I received a request for revisions. The email contained general comments from 3 reviewers and an attached sheet of detailed comments from one of them. Unfortunately, two of the reviews clearly referred to one or more different papers; none of the comments were relevant to my article. This included very specific comments, such as spelling mistakes on a particular page, that made it clear the reviewer was reading another article. The third reviewer's comments were so general that, honestly, they could apply to almost any article, with comments such as "The paper needs editing for language and grammar" and "the references can be updated and expanded". I don't think the third reviewer's comments referred to my paper either (it was written and edited by 3 native English speakers and the language and grammar are pretty good) but cannot be 100% certain.
I emailed the editor to point out the mistake. I emailed the journal and received a reply to say my email had been passed to the editor. Time passed. I emailed again. And again. All my communications were extremely polite, thanking the editor for considering my article, explaining the confusion and requesting the correct reviewers' comments. There was no reply.
I contacted a colleague who is on the editorial board of the journal. He wrote 3 emails to the editor and received no response.
In desperation, I revised the paper, updating some statistics and adding a few more recent references. As much as was possible, I responded to the reviewers' comments as if they applied to the paper. I wrote a detailed response to the comments, explaining where they didn't apply and outlining the revisions. I resubmitted the paper.
It is too early to have receieved a response yet. However, I have 2 questions:
1) If I get no response now, what other action is available to me? I think the behaviour of the journal has been pretty bad. What recourse do I have? The nature of the article means there is no obvious alternative journal to submit to. 2) If the revised manuscript is accepted, it will be published as a peer-reviewed article without having been peer reviewed. What are the ethics of this and doesn't it make a mockery of the peer-review process?