A Darlington businessowner has been left angry and frustrated after being charged £1,640 by a water company which claims she used a whopping 776,000 litres of water in just one month – enough to more than fill the swimming pool at the Dolphin Centre.

Vicki Robertson, who runs Holly's Doggy Deli, in Northumberland Street, was shocked when water company Everflow said she had used 776 cubic metres of water last August.

She maintains there is no way she could have used the water, which is way above the one to two cubic metres she usually uses. 

However, the company insists it has investigated the matter and says she owes the four-figure sum. 

Read more: Dad hits out at Darlington school as daughter banned from prom despite paying £500 for dress

It came as even more of a surprise as the shop was running on reduced hours during the month due to Vicki taking time off to recover after donating a kidney to a stranger.

She said: “They are well aware I usually only use two cubic metres. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of litres. They asked me if I could have had a leak but I’m not aware of one and with that volume of water it would have been a flood.

“How this happened I don’t know.

“I’m at a complete loss. I can’t imagine what kind of business would use that amount of water. I had one person coming in five days a week and she would have used the toilet and washed a few spoons."


Vicki, 37, has been running the business since 2016 and was not working last August as she was recovering from surgery.

She and her partner Kevin Taylor, who needed a transplant due to chronic kidney failure, were part of a pioneering kidney sharing scheme which pools people who incompatible for direct organ donations.

The Northern Echo:

It meant the shop was only open five days a week and was using less water than usual as her dog grooming service was not being offered.

A meter reading says she used 760 cubic metres of water that month. However Vicki has raised concerns about the accuracy of the meter, which has since been replaced, and says one of her neighbours had also experienced an unusual reading. It takes 608 cubic metres of water to fill the main pool at Darlington's Dolphin Centre. 

Vicki, whose usual monthly bill is between £20 and £30, said: “I feel quite anxious about it right now. It’s an uncertain time with energy bills going up. After Covid people's shopping trends are still completely different."

“I’m at a stage where I’m thinking is it even worth having a business. I don’t want to be paying for something I haven’t used. It’s a four-figure sum of money. I can’t afford it.

She added: “It makes me frustrated because right now I don’t know what avenues I can go down

“At the end of the day if I thought I owed them I would hold my hands up but because I genuinely don’t believe I should have to pay for something I am adamant I haven’t used I have to stand my ground.”

She has been in touch with The Consumer Council for Water (CCW), the consumer body for the water industry in England and Wales, which is working to try and resolve the issue.

The Northern Echo:

Nicola Brown, CCW’s director of consumer relations, said: “Unexpected bill spikes are very distressing for customers and can be enormously detrimental for businesses and households in what is already a challenging economic climate.

“Our team are continuing to exhaust efforts to secure the customer a bill reduction, given the unusual change in consumption, and we will do everything we can to try and get them a satisfactory outcome.”

Read more: New bus fare introduced for Darlington pensioners travelling before this time of day

A spokesperson for Everflow said: “We are very sorry to hear about the customer’s anxiety around this bill, we investigated the matter thoroughly on their behalf as soon as it was brought to our attention. Upon receipt of the customer enquiry, we immediately investigated and escalated to the wholesaler.

“We quickly requested a possible ‘leak allowance’ to try and offset some of the water charged. On inspection however, no leak was found on the site - which is in line with the customer’s own findings. We tried another route for reimbursement, however, this was rejected by the wholesaler as no further proof was found to suggest that the variation in meter readings was incorrect. In fact, a new meter had been fitted for the customer after several months of no water being charged.

“Should the customer obtain any new evidence, we will support them to pursue further investigation."

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054