In metapopulations, competitive interactions may extend beyond the confines of the local population such that members of neighbouring habitat patches affect each other adversely (quasi-local competition). We derive a model for quasi-local competition from first principles, assuming that individuals compete for shared resources and members of a population spend a certain fraction of their foraging time in the adjacent populations. Contrary to the results of Doebeli and Killingback [2003. Theor. Popul. Biol. 64, 397-416], our model does not produce spatial patterns of population densities in homogeneous environments. Quasi-local competition nevertheless contributes to pattern formation by amplifying the effect of heterogeneities in the external environment, and this amplification can be extremely strong when dispersal is absent. We discuss why apparently similar models lead to contrasting results.