HSBC has responded to a Facebook-based campaign against its charges for graduates – another sign that social networking sites have become a hotbed of consumer activity and that big brands are listening.

Following the protests, the bank said it would reverse its decision to abolish interest-free overdrafts for students leaving university this summer and would refund charges they have already paid.

More than 5,000 members had joined a group set up by The National Union of Students (NUS) called ‘Stop the Great HSBC Rip-Off’, while several other pages had been set up to call for a boycott of the bank.

In a statement, HSBC said: 

“Following the feedback from our graduate account holders, both directly and via the NUS, we have taken the decision to freeze interest charging on 2007 graduates overdrafts up to £1,500.”

NUS vice president Wes Streeting, who set up the group, told the BBC:

“There can be no doubt that using Facebook made the world of difference to our campaign.

“By setting up a group on a site that is incredibly popular with students, it enabled us to contact our members during the summer vacation far more easily than would otherwise have been possible.”

Earlier this month, Cadbury responded to social network users asking it to bring back ‘cult’ chocolate bar Wispa, while Facebook is now facing a protest on its own site about its targeted ad plans.