MONTREAL -- A consumer-rights groups is calling on the Canadian government to pass legislation requiring merchants across the country to accept cash from customers.

In a 71-page study published Wednesday, Option consommateurs said the disappearance of cash payment exposes consumers to many risks to their privacy and ability to manage their budgets.

Option consommateurs said it has noted a recent trend in restaurants and stores across Canada that now only accept electronic payments.

That decision by more and more companies to stop accepting cash can harm many consumers, including the elderly, low-income people and those with less education, the study found.

In addition, unlike cash, electronic transactions are not anonymous. Payment by card means there's an electronic recording of financial information, which could then be used for commercial purposes. The existence of this data also increases the risk of it being misappropriated and used by criminals for fraud or identity theft, said Option consommateurs.

The organization also found in focus groups that consumers want to be able to choose how they pay and believe it is illegitimate to refuse payment in cash. The focus groups also felt that cash is simpler and provides greater freedom and better control over assets.

Option consommateurs is asking the government to modernize Canada's Currency Act to force merchants to accept cash and standardize the various laws that govern electronic payment methods.