Buyers club

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A buyers club or buying club is a club organized to pool members' collective buying power, enabling them to make purchases at lower prices than are generally available, or to purchase goods that might be difficult to obtain independently.

Some key examples of buyers clubs include medical purchases of rare medications for treating HIV or hepatitis C sooner, at reduced cost for patients.

Community bulk purchases[edit]

In many parts of the United States, Canada, and Europe, families and individuals combine their purchasing power to buy items, typically bulk-type food, in a volume that generates a discounted price from the seller. The seller saves by having only one purchase order to manage and, possibly, less packaging and delivery to deal with. The buyers benefit from a lower per-unit cost and, incidentally, from an increased sense of community and sharing. Bulk-food sellers often provide tools so their customers can set up community buyers' clubs, for example:.[1]

The trend for buyers' clubs, or local coops, accelerated starting in the 1970s. However, these groups are organic in structure, locally governed, and can come into being and go out of existence without much publicity, so there is no precise figure for how many buyers' clubs of this sort exist or have existed.[2]

AIDS epidemic[edit]

In the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, AIDS buyers clubs became important as a means of obtaining medications not yet approved by the FDA that members thought might be useful in treating HIV and opportunistic infections.[3] The first and largest of these was the People With AIDS Health Group (PWA Health Group), founded in 1986 by Thomas Hannan, Joseph Sonnabend, and Michael Callen.[3][4][5][6] AIDS buyers clubs distributed such unapproved drugs as ribavirin, dextran sulfate, and DCNB (dinitrochlorobenzene), as well as cheaper pirated versions of zidovudine (AZT), which was the first drug that was FDA-approved for the treatment of AIDS. AIDS buyers clubs also distributed information about the disease and drug developments, and became an important source of AIDS treatment education and advocacy.[3][6] An example of an AIDS buyers club was drawn to wider prominence with the 2013 film release Dallas Buyers Club.

Hepatitis C[edit]

In response to the high price of modern direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatments for hepatitis C, the FixHepC buyers club was set up by James Freeman and his father John Freeman [7] in Australia in 2015 in order to help individual patients obtain legal access to generic versions of sofosbuvir, daclatasvir, and ledipasvir. At EASL International Liver Congress,[8] Dr. Freeman presented data[9] showing how generic versions are as effective as branded products.


In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that fraudulent or misleading buyers clubs were one of the top three types of consumer fraud in 2011, affecting about 0.6% of the US population every year.[10]

These memberships are typically sold in the course of selling another product, either with a free trial membership being a condition of making the purchase at the offered price or with a free trial membership being included as a "thank you" gift along with the initial purchase. The customer may not understand what was purchased or may believe that they have not authorized payment for the membership, and yet the credit card used for the initial purchase is billed for the buyer's club membership at the end of the free trial.[11] According to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, "Consumers often tell us they don't recall ever having spoken to the companies, and they don't understand how they can be charged when they have not given the company their credit card number."[12]

Sometimes, a wide variety of products are promised at a discount, and then once the fee is paid the products are unavailable or not as advertised.[13] This is particularly true for travel-related buying clubs.[14]


  1. ^ Manage My Coop, "How to Start Your Own Buying Club"
  2. ^ Anne Meis Knupfer (2013). Food Co-ops in America: Communities, Consumption, and Economic Democracy. Cornell University Press. pp. 134–135. ISBN 978-0801451140. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Howard Lune (2007). Urban Action Networks: HIV/AIDS and Community Organizing in New York City. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-0742540842. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  4. ^ "PWA Health Group". Retrieved January 3, 2015.
  5. ^ Sean Strub (January 14, 2014). Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival. Simon and Schuster. p. 178. ISBN 9781451661972. Retrieved January 3, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Kolata, Gina (1988-07-10). "IDEAS & TRENDS: A Market for Drugs; AIDS Patients and Their Above-Ground Underground". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  7. ^ Richard Woolveridge (November 30, 2015), "Real life Dallas Buyers Club operation helps hepatitis C patients with free drugs", The Sydney Morning Herald
  8. ^ Freeman, James A. D.; Hill, Andrew (1 July 2016). "The use of generic medications for hepatitis C". Liver Int. 36 (7): 929–932. doi:10.1111/liv.13157. PMC 5108470. PMID 27306303.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2016-07-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Federal Trade Commission, "FTC Survey for 2011 Shows an Estimated 25.6 Million Americans Fell Victim to Fraud"
  11. ^ Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Fraud in the United States, 2011
  12. ^ "Miller: Buying Clubs Ordered to Pay to Settle Deception Charges", November 13, 2001 (press release)
  13. ^ Fraud Squad TV, Buyers Clubs Fraud
  14. ^ National Consumers League, "Time for Vacation – Avoid Travel Scams"

Further reading[edit]