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Competition is usually a good thing. It curbs profiteering, encourages innovation and, as a general rule, protects consumers.

That should not be dogma, however. There are business conditions where bigness or market dominance serves the community better.

First, there are natural monopolies. These are industries where the barriers to entry are so high that consumers are better served by a single provider. An example of this is electricity distribution. It is uneconomical for rival firms to compete in the same market.

Then there are natural oligopolies. Our telecoms industry, for example, cannot take more than the three major players already in the game. A new entrant will need to invest in redundant infrastructure that may not be supportable by the market.

There are instances where merging the major players works better for consumers. Such mergers may create economies of scale and encourage investment in new technologies.

An example here is the impending merger between the Philippine Clearing House Corporation (PCHC) and Bancnet. The two companies are clearing switch operators for PESONet and InstaPay, respectively. The two use new digital technologies to hasten payments and settlement.

Although they may look alike at first glance, the two companies are distinct from each other. PESONet is a batch electronic fund transfer (ETF) credit payment scheme. It is the electronic alternative to the traditional paper-based check system.

On the other hand, Instapay is a real-time low-value ETF credit push scheme for transactions amounting to P50,000 or less. This the scheme that makes possible the extensive ATM banking system we now have in place. The ATM system benefits the consumers because the service is available all hours. It benefits the banks because of its labor-saving features.

Therefore, the two entities are not really competitors.

Combining the two entities will make transferring funds more efficient for everybody. The merger of the two will allow a company with more financial resources to invest in further innovation.

Some might fear that the merger might result in higher transfer fees and lower quality of service for end users. This is unlikely. The shareholders