Man billed £17,500 by Northumbrian Water ‘in error’

Northumbrian Water
A man in Northumbria was shocked to find a huge sum of £17,500 had been taken from his bank account by Northumbrian Water.

Mark Searcey, from South Shields was startled to see the utilities firm had withdrew the large amount last month without prior warning when checking his finances online.

The 30-year-old who suffers from learning difficulties and a has a condition called Moyamoya which effects the flow of blood to the brain initially thought the letter was an administration error.

He immediately contacted his bank who cancelled his direct debit payments with the water firm and the amount was refunded.

However, he received a letter four days later from the utility company who were demanding the bill be paid. On top of the £17,500 they added £4.80 to the bill for cancelling the direct debit.

A spokesperson from the water company blamed the issue on a “leak at the property, estimated meter readings and difficulty in contacting the customer.”

They said the unusually high bill was flagged up though the bills asking for payment were sent out ‘in error.’

The spokesperson also told the Sheilds Gazette that a bill was sent out before the money was taken from the account despite Mr Searcey insisting he didn’t receive it.

Mr Searcey said: “It just gave me a shock. I was checking my bank account when I noticed £17,500 had been withdrawn.

“I had to look at it again as I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t afford to pay that amount. There was no letter warning me about it. The money was just taken out in one go.”

Mr Searcey believes the large figure was a miscalculation due to a faulty water meter and a leak. Though a Northumbrian Water worker had confirmed before the bill incident that his water meter was running even when water facilities were not being used in the flat, Mr Searcey was seemingly still charged.

He added: “At first I thought it was a laugh, but after I contacted my bank to get the money refunded into my account I got a letter from Northumbrian Water still demanding the money be paid.

“I have a range of disabilities and health issues. This is the kind of stress I don’t need. I just want it to get sorted out.

A Northumbrian Water spokesperson added: “We will be visiting him to fully check his supply for leaks and his bill will be recalculated based on his average usage.

“We have agreed a payment plan with the customer for future bills and are sorry for any inconvenience.”

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