Former Esso retailers have been left devastated by the judgement on their long-running battle with Esso, which ruled against them on Tiger Tokens and hot fuel; and left them with the prospect of going back to the County Courts to get individual judgements on the third issue of margins, fees and allowances.

The retailers – around 100 of them – had been waiting since the end of the two-month trial in early April for a judgement, which they hoped would bring a positive end for them after years of stress over the various difficulties they had encountered as Esso licensees. Having been expected some time in May, the judgement finally came through in mid-July.

The retailers will also have a long wait to know what the financial implications of the judgement will be, as the costs hearing on July 25 has been adjourned to a date after October 20. The time for applying for permission to appeal has been extended until after that date.

“We are all devastated, and I don’t know why the judge has chosen to make the judgement in this way,” said Shailesh Parekh, one of the most high-profile of the former licensees who was behind public protests outside Esso’s former head offices in London and appeared on TV.

“The judge made certain assumptions about Esso and has decided to believe its story over ours. The general consensus at the moment is that the judgement has to be appealed. We don’t have any choice.”

PRA director Ray Holloway branded the judgement “very poor”.

“I wouldn’t believe that anyone associated with this case isn’t disappointed with the lack of clarity in the judgement – and I include the oil company in that.

“It’s a very poor judgement in many respects – and I don’t mean in terms of who won, but how it’s written.

“I also have concerns because this thing is not over. We’re not at the end of the road, and I don’t know what the implications are for the group.”

Meanwhile, Esso issued a very brief statement: “We note the judge’s decision and comments and hope this will bring to a close a matter which has been of concern to all involved.”

Since the ruling on hot fuel, rumours were rife in the industry that allowances on fuel stock loss were being withdrawn, but this was denied by the oil companies.