I have recently visited Alice Springs and hired a car from Central Car Hire. I foolishly drove it on a gravel road, which I should have known counted as 'off road'. When I returned the car, the rear guard/bumper/panel was raised at the join, which the car hire people said was due to the vibrations on the gravel road. I apologised and prepared to pay for the damage.
The owners were very aggressive, even though I was being calm and fully ready to make things right. They immediately charged me the full $1200 on my credit card, even though they said it would probably cost $500. In the taxi to the airport, the taxi driver said that this kind of loose panel is caused by a broken clip, which can be repaired for $23, and that the people are dodgy.
I hope no-one else has to go through this hostile experience - My advice is to read the contract carefully, and if the vehicle is damaged, to photograph the damage and take it to get an independent assessment before you return it to the car hire company. I spoke to a mechanic in Alice Springs but he said he didn't want to get on the bad side of these people.
I will be contacting the Department of Fair Trading - but it has made me feel like Alice Springs is not a trustworthy place for tourists.